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September 21 , 2010

The Politics of Eloquence

David Hume's Polite Rhetoric


History has shown us that the power of political speech can be put to both positive and manipulative ends - while rhetoric is a powerful tool for those who seek to persuade others to adopt their views, it can also be employed to foment factionalism and undermine the very basis of a democratic society. In this unique study, Marc Hanvelt shows how eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume confronted questions about the negative moral and political effects of rhetoric, and how he differentiated between manipulative and non-manipulative political speech.

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Drawing on Hume's philosophical, historical, and popular writings, The Politics of Eloquence presents an understanding of rhetoric that can be properly ascribed to this important thinker, an understanding hitherto overlooked in the scholarly literature. Offering an original approach to thinking about political rhetoric – an essential element of democratic politics – Hanvelt makes important contributions to both Hume scholarship and to broader areas in political theory and philosophy.

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