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Complots of Conspiracy, Pidgen Conspiracy Theory Snobbery. SCADS

A reading of Complots of Mischief by Charles Pidgen.



Complots of Mischief

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Editorial team

General Editors:

David Bourget (Western Ontario)

David Chalmers (ANU, NYU) 

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Lance De Haven and Charles Pidgen, the next time some intellectual snob dis´s your suggestion that not all that people learn from History Books or NewsPapers is the truth, point them at these two gentlemen.https://philpapers.org/archive/PIGCOM.pdf

Let us start with History. In the electronic edition of the Collected Works and Correspondence of David Hume39, the word ‘conspiracy’ occurs 191 times (a), the word ‘conspiracies’, 45 times, the word ‘conspirators’, 70 times, ‘conspirator’, 12 times, ‘conspired’, twice, ‘conspire’, 11 times, ‘conspired’, 23 times, ‘conspird’ (a misspelling of ‘conspired’), twice, ‘conspiring’, 8 times, ‘plot’ 94 times, ‘plots’, 9 times, ‘plotted’ twice, and ‘ploter’ (a rather amusing variant of ‘plotter’), three times. Concentrating on the word ‘conspiracy’, about three come from editors or correspondents such as Lady Hervey, and about ten concern the crazy theory, hatched in the paranoid brain of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that ‘d’Alembert, Horace Walpole, and [Hume had] entered into a Conspiracy against him to lead him into England, and ruin him, by settling him in a most commodious and agreeable Manner, and by doubling his Income’40. There are four casual uses of ‘conspiracy’ in the Essays and The Natural History of Religion, in which Hume alludes to a historical conspiracy before going on to make some other historical, sociological or philosophical point. For example: ‘That bloody debauchee [the Emperor Commodus] being murdered by a conspiracy suddenly formed between his wench and her gallant, who happened at that time to be Praetorian Praefect; these immediately deliberated about choosing a master to human kind ….’ 41 There are several occurrences of ‘conspiracy’ in Hume’s letters to his fellow historian, William Robertson, in which he discusses (on the basis of state papers, intercepted correspondence and the like) the complicity of Mary, Queen of Scots in various conspiracies against her husband, Lord Darnley, her cousin, Elizabeth I and her son, James VI: ‘I am afraid, that you, as well as myself, have drawn Mary’s character with too great softenings. She was undoubtedly a violent woman at all times. You will see in Murden proofs of the utmost rancour against her innocent, good-natured, dutiful son. She certainly disinherited him. What think you of a conspiracy for kidnapping him, and delivering him a prisoner to the King of Spain, never to recover his liberty till he should turn Catholic?’ 42 However, the vast bulk of the uses of ‘conspiracy’ occur in Hume’s six volume History of England, long regarded as a standard work And in most of these uses Hume is simply recounting in a matter-of –fact way the conspiracies he finds in his sources: ‘A secret conspiracy was entered into to perpetrate in one day a general massacre of the Normans, like that which had formerly been executed upon the Danes..’ (History, vol. 1, p. 195); ‘A conspiracy of his [that is, William II’s] own barons, which was detected at this time, appeared a 40 Greig ed. (1932b) The Letters of David Hume, vol. 2, Letter 358 to Suard, p. 103. 41 Hume David (1985) Essays, Moral Political and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller, Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, p. 483, ‘Of the Original Contract’. 42 Greig ed. (1932a) The Letters of David Hume, vol. 1, Letter 162 to Robertson, p. 229

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