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David Hume Historian

David Hume / Philosophers and Historians

  • Name  : Hume
  • Born  : 1711
  • Died  : 1776
  • Category  : Philosophers and Historians
  • Finest Moment : Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

Born in Edinburgh, the son of a Berwickshire laird, Hume went to Edinburgh University, messing about half-heartedly with law for a while before going for a wee wander in England and France. He was a highly intelligent man, an atheist, and a great philosopher.

At the age of 28 he wrote the three-volume Treatise of Human Nature (1739). This was too radical a book however, and it failed to ignite much interest in its day. Indeed, it was 200 years before its true value was appreciated. Hume's main thesis was that morality forms in the early years of life, within the family. Sociability, sympathy, affection and concern for both self and others are the mainsprings of moral life.

He was a sceptic, but one imbued (luckily), with highly developed sense of humour. He rejected everyday logic and questioned the idea of cause and effect as a mere imposition of human ideas on the natural universe. Because you see an orderly universe, the theologians of the day argued, there must be a creator of the universe. Hold on said Hume, we have not seen any other universes to compare with our own.

He influenced Adam Smith, whose account of Hume the atheist dying in contented peace affronted the religious. He also had an influence on the philosopher Kant, and predicted the American Revolution. His writings struck a chord with the founders of that great nation. He continues to influence modern thinkers.

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