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An Age of RiskPolitics and Economy in Early Modern Britain$
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Emily C. Nacol

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691165103

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691165103.001.0001

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Hume’s Fine Balance

Hume’s Fine Balance

On Probability, Fear, and the Risks of Trade

(p.69) Chapter Four Hume’s Fine Balance
An Age of Risk

Emily C. Nacol

Princeton University Press

This chapter offers an interpretation of David Hume's body of work as simultaneously sensitive to how uncertainty and risk can enervate commercial actors and committed to emboldening these actors to take more risks. Hume's writings on passion, cognition, politics, and commerce reveal an apt representation of how risk and uncertainty are entangled in the minds of subjects, as well as a robust explanation for why so many people are made anxious by risks, even ones that promise a good outcome. Hume's expressions of philosophical skepticism and his treatment of probability establish his view that deep uncertainty is the background condition for commerce and for the politics of commercial societies, and show that he is unusually mindful of the disconcerting experience of living with uncertainty.

Keywords:   David Hume, commercial actors, writings, philosophical skepticism, probability, commerce

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