"The idea of a perfect commonwealth" by David Hume and its effects for the UK

Seminar Paper, 2001

4 Pages, Grade: 1,0

Abstract or Introduction

One of Hume´s famous essays, “The idea of a perfect commonwealth”, is based on the consideration to create a new form of government, “the most perfect of all” [page 513; line 13]. Hume thinks it is one of the most important thoughts man´s wit can consider. The present “governments seem to serve the purpose of society” [513; 14- 15], but they are not perfect and do not work accurately. It is advantageous to know what is the most perfect commonwealth, because it is the best way to improve existing governmental systems and constitutions as far as possible towards perfection without giving “too great disturbance to society” [514; 2]. An established government, recommended by antiquity, has great advantage and is for that reason accepted by mankind. Philosophers, like him, have to respect this fact, but with their ideas they “may attempt some improvements for the public good” [512, 13- 513, 1] without shaking a constitution or government to the very foundations.
Another chance of his theory for the future, may be to establish a perfect commonwealth, where an old one vanishes or where men combine to form a new one, as he proposes, “in some distant part of the world” [513; 23- 24].
David Humes´ plan of the perfect government resembles the model of James Harrington´s Commonwealth of Oceana, as he claims the only valuable model. Before presenting his own theory, he describes the main inconveniences of the Oceana. The rotation of public employment by intervals and the Agrarian, because of the risk of abuse, are “impracticable” [514; 4]. The third criticism is the negative, the senate has upon the people. It does not provide enough security for liberty, because the negative of the senate goes before the vote of the people. That is unacceptable for Hume. Liberty gets out of balance, if the legislative has got the power to decide, which propositions they let the people vote upon. Hume reminds of the King´s negative in the English constitution and describes the consequences, if the negative of the King came, before a popular bill reaches the parliament to be debated. If this was the case, the King of Britain “would be an absolute monarch” [515; 15- 16]. According to Hume, the main defect of the Oceana is, that “the whole legislature (...) rest(s) in the senate” [516; 5].


"The idea of a perfect commonwealth" by David Hume and its effects for the UK
University of Flensburg  (Englisches Seminar)
Philosophy of culture in the Age of Enlightment
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
443 KB
David, Hume, Philosophy, Enlightment
Quote paper
Thorsten Klein (Author), 2001, "The idea of a perfect commonwealth" by David Hume and its effects for the UK, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/62419


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: "The idea of a perfect commonwealth" by David Hume and its effects for the UK

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free