Hume and Saint-Lambert on Arts, Luxury and Civilisation

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Ştefan-Sebastian Maftei


The focus of the paper is to review an early episode from the modern history of the politics and the arts: the XVIIIth century French reception of the debate on the role of luxury and the arts and sciences in “free” states, as it unfolds in two of David Hume’s essays: Of the Rise and the Progress of the Arts and Sciences (1742) and Of Refinement in the Arts (1752). The paper will try to address the reception of Hume’s ideas about arts and luxury in France by focusing particularly on Jean-François de Saint-Lambert’s (1716-1803) essay on “Luxury”, published in the volume IX of the Encyclopedia of Diderot & D’Alembert. The main thesis is that Saint-Lambert was a continuator of Hume in France. Throughout the discussion, the paper will try to survey the development of the luxury-civilization-arts complex, which is now part of the traditional XVIIIth century view on the role of arts and sciences in free, “civilized”, societies. Moreover, the discussions of Hume and Saint-Lambert on luxury and the arts will unfurl another significant debate in the XVIIIth century, the debate about “civilization”.

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MAFTEI, Ştefan-Sebastian. Hume and Saint-Lambert on Arts, Luxury and Civilisation. Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series, [S.l.], v. 67, n. 1, p. 5-24, july 2018. ISSN 0068-3175. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 22 may 2019.