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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012

C - The character of the peoples


By the word people (populus) is meant a multitude of human beings united in a region, in so far as they constitute a whole. This multitude, or even the part of it that recognizes itself as united into a civil whole through common ancestry, is called a nation (gens). The part that exempts itself from these laws (the unruly crowd within this people) is called a rabble (vulgus), whose illegal association is the mob (agere per turbas), – conduct that excludes them from the quality of a citizen.

Hume thinks that if each individual in a nation is intent on assuming his own particular character (as with the English), the nation itself has no character. It seems to me that he is mistaken; for affectation of a character is precisely the general character of the people to which he himself belongs, and it is contempt for all foreigners, particularly because the English believe that they alone can boast of a respectable constitution that combines civil freedom internally with power against outsiders. – A character like this is arrogant rudeness, in contrast to the politeness that easily becomes familiar; it is obstinate behavior toward every other person from supposed self-sufficiency, where one believes that one has no need of anybody else and so can be excused from kindness toward other people.

Thus the two most civilized peoples on earth, England and France, have contrasting characters, and perhaps chiefly because of this are in a constant feud with each other.

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Kant: Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View
  • Online ISBN: 9780511809569
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