July 14, 2011

Quote of the Day: Hume on Space Travel

I've just returned from watching the last space shuttle launch. We also got to spend several days looking through the excellent museum exhibits at Kennedy Space Center, which I highly recommend. Anyway, all this time spent considering the history of American space flight, its effects on the individuals involved, and the effect it had on international politics, put me in mind of this quote from Hume:

In general, it may be affirm'd, that there is no such passion in human minds, as the love of mankind, merely as such, independent of personal qualities, of services, or of relation to ourself ... An Englishman in Italy is a friend: A European in China; and perhaps a man wou'd be belov'd as such, were we to meet him in the moon. But this proceeds only from the relation to ourselves; which in these cases gathers force by being confin'd to a few persons (THN 3.2.1).

Hume's pessimism about the prospects for philanthropic feeling aside, his observation about the effects of meeting a neighbor far from home, and about the way the word 'neighbor' takes on a looser and looser signification as one gets farther from home, seems to hit the mark precisely.

Posted by Kenny at July 14, 2011 8:32 PM
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