British Literature

Download A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh PDF

By Evelyn Waugh

After seven years of marriage, the gorgeous girl Brenda final has grown tired of existence at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that's the satisfaction and pleasure of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. In a unique that mixes tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible temper of the "crazy and sterile generation" among the wars.

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Promise and contract extend trust, Hume says, beyond family and friends to strangers, though some basic trust in one another is shown in acceptance of any convention, when we trust others to conform to it. Hume sees our ancestors to have “invented” property, promise, and (later) governors. Of course, once they are invented, there will indeed be new prohibitions, such as “Don’t steal, don’t break contracts,” just as the enabling rules of a game generate some forbidden moves or fouls. As nothing would count as a double fault at tennis without the enabling rules of the game, so nothing would count as theft unless property rights are being recognized.

Hume went on, in Part 4 of Book 1, to take several “systems” of philosophy, ancient and modern, and to subject them to a fairly skeptical survey. He also attempts some philosophy of his own, to explain why we believe that material things, and our own minds, continue to exist as the same things even when changing and when unobserved by us (in our case, in dreamless sleep). These beliefs are as regular a feature of our minds as is our faith in causal inference, and so perhaps should have been looked at in Book 3, before being subjected to skeptical survey in Book 4.

It is “extensive sympathy with mankind,” not any need to placate gods or demons, which is the source of Hume’s version of morals, and he believes that a better understanding of our own nature will serve to improve our understanding of human morality and the content it should have. Here again he is revising biblical stories, especially the version of morality of the hellfire preachers, who regard its dictates as those of a jealous and vengeful god, who first creates us sinners, then forbids us what we naturally want.

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