Study Guide

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals Society and Class

By David Hume

Society and Class

There are certain qualities we're expected to possess and ways we're supposed to behave. The aim? To promote the wellbeing of society. Some of these things are valued equally in everyone. However, some depend on the setting and time period. Also, some qualities have been seen as more or less important depending on whether someone's a guy or girl (double standards, much?).

Ultimately, Hume believes that we need to look at ourselves through other people's eyes, as this helps us behave in a way that's good for society. We may feel strongest about ourselves and the people close to us but, sometimes, we need to think about society too.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How did property laws come about? And what purpose do they serve?
  2. Why has chastity been seen as vital for women but not so vital for men?
  3. Hume emphasizes that, while it's natural to biased toward ourselves and our loved ones, it's sometimes vital to take on a more neutral standpoint. Can you think of any scenarios where this applies?

Chew on This

If we're trapped in our own world and don't care what other people think, we lose our sense of perspective. Looking at ourselves from the outside encourages us to think about what's in our own interest and the interests of society.

Even though this enquiry was written centuries ago, men and women still aren't judged on the same criteria. We may think that we've progressed, but double standards and inequality are still around.

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