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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

39. European Civilisation

Texte intégral

1David Hume (1711–1776),i a Scottish philosopher and historian, was famous in his own lifetime. His works were translated in different European languages. His Political Discourses (1752) include a description of certain characteristics of European civilisation, including sociability, which he considers to be the sign of an advanced civilisation.

Of Luxury

2The more these refined arts advance, the more sociable do men become; nor is it possible, that, when enriched with science, and possessed of a fund of conversation, they should be contented to remain in solitude, or live with their fellow citizens in that distant manner, which is peculiar to ignorant and barbarous nations. They flock into cities; love to receive and communicate knowledge; to show their wit or their breeding; their taste in conversation or living, in cloths or furniture. […] Particular clubs and societies are everywhere formed: Both sexes meet in an easy and sociable manner, and men’s tempers, as well as behaviour, refine apace. So that beside the improvements they receive from knowledge and the liberal arts, ’tis impossible but they must feel an increase of humanity, from the very habit of conversing together, and contributing to each other’s pleasure and entertainment. Thus industry, knowledge and humanity are linked together by an indissoluble chain, and are found, from experience as well as reason, to be peculiar to the more polished and luxurious ages. […]

3The bounds of all the European kingdoms are, at present, pretty near the same they were two hundred years ago: But what a difference is there in the power and grandeur of those kingdoms? Which can be ascribed to nothing but the increase of art and industry.

4David Hume, Political Discourses (1752).

Read the free text online (1752 edition):​books?id=fR9YAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA27

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