David Hume’s Guide to Today’s Politics

Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review:

Recently, I argued in this publication that one of our best guides to the world of social media is David Hume—but Hume helps us to understand other elements of our current political culture as well.

Take, for instance, Hume’s contention, in a famous essay, that the two primary “corruptions of true religion” are superstition and enthusiasm. He was thinking primarily of Roman Catholics on the one hand and, on the other, a variety of Protestant religious groups that today we might see as examples or forerunners of evangelicalism; but he deliberately frames his argument in more general terms, as though describing not distinct factions of his time but rather enduring dispositions. “The true sources of superstition,” he argues, are “weakness, fear, melancholy, together with ignorance.” The true sources of enthusiasm, by contrast, are “hope, pride, presumption, a warm imagination, together with ignorance.” You will note that the only item common to both sides is ignorance. A typical Hume comment.

I want to argue that the primary social forces disrupting American society today are modern versions of these two false religions. Our current version of superstition is the MAGA belief system. Our current version of enthusiasm is what some people call wokeness but I prefer to call Left Purity Culture (LPC).

More here.