Hume’s Low Road to Toleration

G. CONTI
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 36.1 (2015): 165-191

Abstract: While Hume had little trouble showing why England should be a land of toleration, he had difficulty explaining how it had made strides towards becoming one. Throughout his career Hume struggled to identify the causes of the entrance of toleration into English political life. In this article I show that Hume rejected several familiar Enlightenment theories for the origins of toleration. Instead, Hume located the source of this cherished political principle in the ideological and psychological peculiarities of enthusiasm, particularly in what he saw as the instability of beliefs which he believed enthusiasm was prone to engender in its adherents.