The Anatomist and the Painter: The Continuity of Hume's Treatise and Essays.

The three volumes of Hume’s first and most famous work, A Treatise of Human Nature,’ were followed almost immediately by two volumes of Essays, Moral and Political. What is the relationship between these two early projects? Modern readers of Hume have, at least implicitly, read these two works as discontinuous and largely unrelated. In this article I argue that much can be learned by reading the Essays as the natural continuation of a chain of thought that is begun in the Treatise but not completed there. My interpretation relies on Hume’s discussion of two different roles for the philosopher, the “metaphysician” and the ”moralist,” and two different styles of philosophical work, which he metaphorically describes as the “anatomistn and the “painter.” Adetailed argument for this thesis would require an interpretation of the Essays in their entirety. In this article I focus only on the very first of the essays, “Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion.” As I read it, this brief essay serves as a bridge between the l’reatise and the Essays, spelling out the connections to the earlier work and pointing to the themes that will be developed in the following essays.

Main Author: Immerwahr, John.
Format: Villanova Faculty Authorship
Language: English
Published: 1991
Online Access: