Hume’s low road to toleration

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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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)165-191
Number of pages27
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


  • David Hume
  • Enthusiasm
  • Independency
  • Of Superstition and Enthusiasm
  • Persecution
  • Religion
  • Scepticism
  • Shaftesbury
  • The History of England
  • Toleration

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