Hume without Spontaneous Order

John Salter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The question whether it is possible to be both a Humean and a contractarian arises from the interpretation of Hume as a theorist of spontaneous order, a theory that is usually taken to be incompatible with contractarianism. I argue that this interpretation is unconvincing and anachronistic. The real reason why it is problematic to view Hume as a contractarian is not because he is proponent of spontaneous order, but because he is a virtue-ethicist. I argue that Hume adopted and elaborated on the natural law account of the origins of property as conventional, but provided a different and separate account of the obligation to respect property rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-38
Number of pages12
JournalRationality, Markets and Morals
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2015


  • Hume, convention, spontaneous order, contractarianism, natural law, prop- erty.


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