Analysis Of David Hume's Hypocrisy

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The clergy’s actions during the first scaffold scene demonstrate the hypocrisy of Hume’s idea of suspension of justice regarding the sinner. Upon being coerced into extorting Hester’s repentance, the young minister beseeches her to “name thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer...What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him--yea, compel him, as it were--to add hypocrisy to sin?” (Hawthorne, Ch. 3). Although equally guilty, Dimmesdale’s position within the theocracy enables him to transfer the responsibility of confessing to his lover. Acknowledging the hypocritical nature of his predicament, the clergyman implores his accomplice to divulge the truth, lest he plunge into an endless abyss of equivocation.
Immediately after Dimmesdale’s
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Writing in his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, the Scottish philosopher declares, “When any man, even in political society, renders himself by his crimes, obnoxious to the public, he is punished by the laws in his goods and person; that is, the ordinary rules of justice are, with regard to him, suspended for a moment.” Hume argues that a criminal, upon committing a crime, has downgraded himself to a state of justifiable abuse. Calling, therefore, for a “suspension of justice,” Hume would seemingly condone the behavior of both Dimmesdale and Wilson in The Scarlet Letter. However, as any intelligent reader can clearly see, the two ministers are portrayed as flawed characters who represent the pitfalls of Puritan punishment. Thus, it appears as if Hume’s utopian ideas fail on a practical level, and a society which prides itself on the plight of the evildoer is morally…show more content…
Meeting Hester and her daughter in the Governor’s Hall, Bellingham says to the adulteress, “Were it not, thinkest thou, for thy little one's temporal and eternal welfare, that she be taken out of thy charge, and clad soberly, and disciplined strictly, and instructed in the truths of heaven and earth?” (Chapter 8). Blindly accepting Congregationalist teachings as truth, Bellingham condescendingly declares the Christian way to be superiorly beneficial to Pearl’s upbringing. Likewise, Reverend Wilson also presupposes the same notion, telling Hester “the child shall be well cared for!--far better than thou canst do it.” (ibd.). Assuming the young woman’s evil nature renders her inadequate at child-raising, Wilson acts with good intentions. While seeming arrogant, his offer to raise Pearl is actually a kind gesture. However, Bellingham and Wilson’s naive assertions in regards to Pearl’s reform, speak to the very flaw of punishment as conditioning as pointed out by C.S.
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