David Hume On Civic Virtue

1356 Words 6 Pages
David Hume and John Witherspoon each raise interesting, yet contrasting, views on civic virtue and its relationship with political well-being. While Hume articulates that through proper checks and balances liberty and government will be protected from an amoral statesman; to the contrary, Witherspoon states that without a proper moral footing any government is destined to fail. Witherspoon’s assertions are supported by the French philosopher Montesquieu. In contrast, Price makes statements that protect Hume’s declarations from the contrasting argument from Witherspoon.

Witherspoon’s position on civic morality’s relationship to political well-being holds the prejudice that can only come from being a religious figurehead. Montesquieu introduces
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The two views can indeed be reconciled. Price and Hume would almost certainly not entertain the idea that just because a nation 's constitution protects them from the non-virtuous, it is an unimportant aspect of a statesman and the success of a nation. However, Hume does state that through checks and balances even a man with malicious intent will act for what is best for the Public Good. In an elected polity, like the one each author seems to base their arguments, the representatives selected by the citizens must hold nearly or exactly the same values and principles as the people electing them. Therefore, it is not easy for a non-virtuous nation to choose the best and most virtuous statesman. The civic virtue must maintain a certain level of dignity for elected officials to themselves maintain a high level of morality. That is not to say, however, that civic virtue, which can be observed yet not measured, is a clear indicator of political well-being. A nation filled with virtuous people can still elect an amoral leader, and a nation that is filled with malicious intent is not doomed if it is well constituted. There is no measure of civic virtue that is not ambiguous or arbitrary. It is up to each individual citizen to decide their own values and principles and then elect what is, in their view, the most ethical and virtuous statesman. There is nearly no uniformity among men 's ideal government or candidate, that is why Prician liberty conflicts with the view held by Witherspoon. If every man is forced to elect the arbitrarily most virtuous candidate, then the government has already failed its citizens in giving them the most basic form of individual freedom and that is freedom of thought and

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