Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Eric Wilson

Second Advisor

Jessica Berry

Third Advisor

Sebastian Rand


In his Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume offers an elaborate account of the origins of property and suggests modesty has a similar origin. In this paper, I draw on Hume’s discussions of modesty and property to extract his account of the origin of modesty. Modesty and property are ultimately regulated by pride and selfishness according to Hume. I argue that these choices of passions, as the grounds of their related virtues, express an intentionally irreligious and anti-Christian approach. Furthermore, I argue that reading Hume in the context of irreligion not only helps understand his own theory, but also explains his different relationships to Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. I conclude that readers of Hume must consider his irreligious motives alongside his skeptical and naturalistic methods if they are to understand him in a historically accurate way, and make sense of how he approaches his project in the Treatise.