Volume 42, Issue 1/2, April/November 2016
Kelly M. S. Swope
On David Hume’s “Forms of Moderation”
Treatise 2.3.6, “Of the influence of the imagination on the passions,” provides a magnified view into the relationship between motivation, morality, and politics in Hume’s philosophy. Here, Hume analyzes a “noted passage” from the history of antiquity in which the citizens of fifth-century Athens deliberated over whether to burn the ships of their neighboring Grecians after winning a decisive naval victory against the Persians. Hume finds the passage notable precisely because of a failure of the imagination to exert an influence on the Athenians’ passions during their deliberations, leading them to abstain from further military action. This paper discusses how Hume’s analysis of this event reveals new connections between his passional, moral, and political theories in the Treatise.