February 13th sees Jose Ruiz-Vicioso present David Hume’s ‘Of the rise and progress of the Arts and Sciences’.
See the text here: OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES
Jose’s summary is as follows:
Writing in mid-18th Century, Hume addresses in this Essay the issue of the rise and progress of the arts and sciences. ‘Why a nation is more polite and learned, in a particular time, than its neighbours?’ he asks.
Hume relates the rise and progress of the arts and sciences with particular political regimes. He opposes free governments (republics) and non-free governments (barbarous monarchies) to explain how the first rise of the arts and sciences is only possible in the former. However, in some civilized monarchies (like France and other states under absolute rule) imitation of the free states has in some way equated them, allowing the rise and progress of the arts and sciences.
On the other hand, Hume engages in a defense of gallantry, one of the major topics of the century in Europe. Republics are more likely to develop the sciences while monarchies are more likely to develop politeness. In any case, Hume concludes, when the arts and sciences come to perfection in any state, from that moment they decline and seldom or never revive in that nation.
*Related reading: Hume’s essays Of refinement in the arts and Of commerce; Rousseau’s Discours sur les sciences et les arts; Montesquieu’s De l’espirit des lois.