Hume on Pride, Vanity and Society

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 18 (2):157-173 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Pride is a fundamental element in Hume's description of human nature. An important part of the secondary literature on Hume is devoted to this passion. However, no one, as far as I am aware, takes seriously the fact that pride often appears in pairs with vanity. In Book 2 of the Treatise, pride is defined as the passion one feels when society recognizes his connection to a ‘cause’, composed by a ‘subject’ and a ‘quality’. Conversely, no definition of vanity is provided. Despite Hume's fluctuating vocabulary, I hold that a conceptual difference between pride and vanity exists. To support this claim, I analyse the common features of these two passions, showing that both pride and vanity are indirect passions, are self-regarding passions, and have the same structure. Supported by textual evidence, I then claim that vanity is a desire of reputation, a desire to feel pride, when pride is not in place, because its cause is only imaginary and not real. Nonetheless, I underscore that, at times, ‘vanity’ means simply pride and call for greater attention on this ongoing oscillation. In conclusion, I explore the implications of this account of vanity for social interactions in Hume's philosophy, which illustrates its intrinsic ambivalence.

Author's Profile

Enrico Galvagni
University of St. Andrews

Analytics

Added to PP
2020-06-10

Downloads
120 (#54,495)

6 months
103 (#8,030)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?