David Hume

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David Hume (April 26, 1711August 25, 1776)[1] was an 18th-century Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian, considered among the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment.

He first gained recognition and respect as a historian; but interest in Hume's work in academia has in recent years centred on his philosophical writing. His History of England[2] was the standard work on English history for sixty or seventy years until Macaulay's.[3]

Hume was the first great philosopher of the modern era to carve out a thoroughly naturalistic philosophy. This philosophy partly consisted in the rejection of the historically prevalent conception of human minds as being miniature versions of the divine mind.[4] This doctrine was associated with a trust in the powers of human reason and insight into reality, which possessed God’s certification. Hume’s scepticism came in his rejection of this ‘insight ideal’,[5] and the (usually rationalistic) confidence derived from it that the world is as we represent it. Instead, the best we can do is to apply the strongest explanatory and empirical principles available to the investigation of human mental phenomena, issuing in a project, Hume's ‘Science of Man’.

Hume was heavily influenced by empiricists John Locke and George Berkeley, along with various Francophone writers such as Pierre Bayle, and various figures on the Anglophone intellectual landscape such as Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and Joseph Butler.[6]

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  1. April 26 is Hume's birthdate in the Old Style Julian calendar, it is May 7 in New Style (Gregorian).
  2. 6 vols., (London: Andrew Millar, 1754-1762).
  3. Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James II, 5 vols. (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1849-1861) [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] ; ed. David Fate Norton, The Cambridge Companion to Hume (Cambridge: CUP, 1993), p.211.
  4. See E. J. Craig's The Mind of God and the Works of Man, (Oxford, 1987), Ch.1 & 2.
  5. Term due to E. J. Craig; see previous fn.
  6. In the Introduction to his A Treatise of Human Nature, (New York: Dover, 2003 edition), p.xi.fn., Hume mentions "Mr Locke, Lord Shaftesbury, Dr Mandeville, Mr Hutcheson, Dr Butler, etc." as philosophers "who have begun to put the science of man on a new footing, and have engaged the attention, and excited the curiosity of the public".