David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, librarian, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism.
121 Facts About David Hume
David Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge derives solely from experience.
David Hume argued that inductive reasoning and belief in causality cannot be justified rationally; instead, they result from custom and mental habit.
David Hume denied that humans have an actual conception of the self, positing that we experience only a bundle of sensations, and that the self is nothing more than this bundle of causally-connected perceptions.
David Hume left a legacy that affected utilitarianism, logical positivism, the philosophy of science, early analytic philosophy, cognitive science, theology, and many other fields and thinkers.
David Hume was the second of two sons born to Catherine Home, daughter of Sir David Falconer of Newton, Midlothian and his wife Mary Falconer, and Joseph Home of Chirnside in the County of Berwick, an advocate of Ninewells.
David Hume changed his family name's spelling in 1734, as the surname 'Home' was not well-known in England.
David Hume never married and lived partly at his Chirnside family home in Berwickshire, which had belonged to the family since the 16th century.
David Hume had little respect for the professors of his time, telling a friend in 1735 that "there is nothing to be learnt from a Professor, which is not to be met with in Books".
At age 18 or so, David Hume made a philosophical discovery that opened up to him "a new Scene of Thought", inspiring him "to throw up every other Pleasure or Business to apply entirely to it".
From this inspiration, David Hume set out to spend a minimum of 10 years reading and writing.
David Hume wrote that he "went under a Course of Bitters and Anti-Hysteric Pills", taken along with a pint of claret every day.
David Hume decided to have a more active life to better continue his learning.
David Hume's health improved somewhat, but in 1731 he was afflicted with a ravenous appetite and palpitations.
David Hume travelled via Bristol to La Fleche in Anjou, France.
For over 60 years, David Hume was the dominant interpreter of English history.
David Hume worked for four years on his first major work, A Treatise of Human Nature, subtitled "Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects", completing it in 1738 at age 28.
In 1745, during the Jacobite risings, David Hume tutored the Marquess of Annandale, an engagement that ended in disarray after about a year.
David Hume then started his great historical work, The History of England, which took fifteen years and ran to over a million words.
From 1746, David Hume served for three years as secretary to General James St Clair, who was envoy to the courts of Turin and Vienna.
At that time David Hume wrote Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, later published as An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
David Hume failed to gain the chair of philosophy at the University of Glasgow due to his religious views.
In 1753 David Hume moved from his house on Riddles Court on the Lawnmarket to a house on the Canongate at the other end of the Royal Mile.
David Hume was a longtime friend of bookseller Andrew Millar, who sold David Hume's History, although the relationship was sometimes complicated.
In 1762 David Hume moved from Jack's Land on the Canongate to James Court on the Lawnmarket.
David Hume sold the house to James Boswell in 1766.
From 1763 to 1765, David Hume was invited to attend Lord Hertford in Paris, where he became secretary to the British embassy.
David Hume was well received in Paris, and while there he met with Isaac de Pinto.
In 1765, David Hume served as British Charge d'affaires, writing "despatches to the British Secretary of State".
In 1766, David Hume left Paris to accompany Jean-Jacques Rousseau to England.
In 1767, David Hume was appointed Under Secretary of State for the Northern Department.
Hume's nephew and namesake, David Hume of Ninewells, was a co-founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783.
David Hume was a Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University and rose to be Principal Clerk of Session in the Scottish High Court and Baron of the Exchequer.
David Hume is buried with his uncle in Old Calton Cemetery.
One such disappointment David Hume discusses in this account is in the initial literary reception of the Treatise, which he claims to have overcome by means of the success of the Essays: "the work was favourably received, and soon made me entirely forget my former disappointment".
David Hume told him that he sincerely believed it a "most unreasonable fancy" that there might be life after death.
David Hume asked that his body be interred in a "simple Roman tomb", requesting in his will that it be inscribed only with his name and the year of his birth and death, "leaving it to Posterity to add the Rest".
David Hume died at the southwest corner of St Andrew's Square in Edinburgh's New Town, at what is 21 Saint David Street.
David Hume's tomb stands, as he wished it, on the southwestern slope of Calton Hill, in the Old Calton Cemetery.
Until recently, David Hume was seen as a forerunner of logical positivism, a form of anti-metaphysical empiricism.
David Hume, on this view, was a proto-positivist, who, in his philosophical writings, attempted to demonstrate the ways in which ordinary propositions about objects, causal relations, the self, and so on, are semantically equivalent to propositions about one's experiences.
David Hume thought that we can form beliefs about that which extends beyond any possible experience, through the operation of faculties such as custom and the imagination, but he was sceptical about claims to knowledge on this basis.
David Hume believes that complex perceptions can be broken down into smaller and smaller parts until perceptions are reached that have no parts of their own, and these perceptions are thus referred to as simple.
David Hume uses this scepticism to reject metaphysics and many theological views on the basis that they are not grounded in fact and observations, and are therefore beyond the reach of human understanding.
The cornerstone of David Hume's epistemology is the problem of induction.
David Hume argues that we tend to believe that things behave in a regular manner, meaning that patterns in the behaviour of objects seem to persist into the future, and throughout the unobserved present.
David Hume acknowledged that there are events constantly unfolding, and humanity cannot guarantee that these events are caused by prior events or are independent instances.
David Hume opposed the widely accepted theory of causation that 'all events have a specific course or reason'.
Therefore, David Hume crafted his own theory of causation, formed through his empiricist and sceptic beliefs.
David Hume was an Empiricist, meaning he believed "causes and effects are discoverable not by reason, but by experience".
David Hume goes on to say that, even with the perspective of the past, humanity cannot dictate future events because thoughts of the past are limited, compared to the possibilities for the future.
David Hume explains his theory of causation and causal inference by division into three different parts.
However, David Hume says that this association cannot be trusted because the span of the human mind to comprehend the past is not necessarily applicable to the wide and distant future.
David Hume said that, when two events are causally conjoined, a necessary connection underpins the conjunction:.
Angela Coventry writes that, for David Hume, "there is nothing in any particular instance of cause and effect involving external objects which suggests the idea of power or necessary connection" and "we are ignorant of the powers that operate between objects".
Rather than reducing the self to a bundle of perceptions, David Hume rejects the idea of the self altogether.
On this interpretation, David Hume is proposing a "no-self theory" and thus has much in common with Buddhist thought.
Psychologist Alison Gopnik has argued that David Hume was in a position to learn about Buddhist thought during his time in France in the 1730s.
David Hume is mainly considered an anti-rationalist, denying the possibility for practical reason, although other philosophers such as Christine Korsgaard, Jean Hampton, and Elijah Millgram claim that David Hume is not so much of an anti-rationalist as he is just a sceptic of practical reason.
David Hume denied the existence of practical reason as a principle because he claimed reason does not have any effect on morality, since morality is capable of producing effects in people that reason alone cannot create.
Since practical reason is supposed to regulate our actions, David Hume denied practical reason on the grounds that reason cannot directly oppose passions.
Practical reason is concerned with the value of actions rather than the truth of propositions, so David Hume believed that reason's shortcoming of affecting morality proved that practical reason could not be authoritative for all rational beings, since morality was essential for dictating people's intentions and actions.
David Hume's writings on ethics began in the 1740 Treatise and were refined in his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.
David Hume's views are rooted in the work of Joseph Addison and Francis Hutcheson.
In "Standard of Taste", David Hume argues that no rules can be drawn up about what is a tasteful object.
David Hume was concerned with the way spectators find pleasure in the sorrow and anxiety depicted in a tragedy.
David Hume argued that this was because the spectator is aware that he is witnessing a dramatic performance.
Furthermore, David Hume laid down rules for educating people in taste and correct conduct, and his writings in this area have been very influential on English and Anglo-Saxon aesthetics.
David Hume argued that the dispute between freedom and determinism continued over 2000 years due to ambiguous terminology.
David Hume describes the link between causality and our capacity to rationally make a decision from this an inference of the mind.
David Hume calls this form of decision making the liberty of spontaneity.
Education writer Richard Wright considers that David Hume's position rejects a famous moral puzzle attributed to French philosopher Jean Buridan.
David Hume went on to suggest that all religious belief "traces, in the end, to dread of the unknown".
David Hume had written on religious subjects in the first Enquiry, as well as later in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
Nevertheless, modern scholars have tended to dismiss the claims of David Hume's contemporaries describing him as an atheist as coming from religiously intolerant people who did not understand David Hume's philosophy.
The fact that contemporaries suspected him of atheism is exemplified by a story David Hume liked to tell:.
The best theologian he ever met, he used to say, was the old Edinburgh fishwife who, having recognized him as David Hume the atheist, refused to pull him out of the bog into which he had fallen until he declared he was a Christian and repeated the Lord's prayer.
However, in works such as "Of Superstition and Enthusiasm", David Hume specifically seems to support the standard religious views of his time and place.
David Hume considered extreme Protestant sects, the members of which he called "enthusiasts", to be corrupters of religion.
Additionally, when mentioning religion as a factor in his History of England, David Hume uses it to show the deleterious effect it has on human progress.
Lou Reich argues that David Hume was a religious naturalist and rejects interpretations of David Hume as an atheist.
Paul Russell writes that David Hume was plainly sceptical about religious belief, although perhaps not to the extent of complete atheism.
David Hume suggests that Hume's position is best characterised by the term "irreligion," while philosopher David O'Connor argues that Hume's final position was "weakly deistic".
Philosopher Louise E Loeb notes that Hume is saying that only experience and observation can be our guide to making inferences about the conjunction between events.
David Hume criticised the argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
Finally, David Hume discussed a version of the anthropic principle, which is the idea that theories of the universe are constrained by the need to allow for man's existence in it as an observer.
David Hume says we believe an event that has frequently occurred is likely to occur again, but we take into account those instances where the event did not occur:.
David Hume recognizes that over a long period time, various coincidences can provide the appearance of intention.
David Hume was extremely pleased with his argument against miracles in his Enquiry.
Critics have argued that David Hume's position assumes the character of miracles and natural laws prior to any specific examination of miracle claims, thus it amounts to a subtle form of begging the question.
David Hume offers the example of an Indian Prince, who, having grown up in a hot country, refuses to believe that water has frozen.
David Hume argued that the quest for liberty was the highest standard for judging the past, and concluded that after considerable fluctuation, England at the time of his writing had achieved "the most entire system of liberty that was ever known amongst mankind".
Generally, David Hume took a moderate royalist position and considered revolution unnecessary to achieve necessary reform.
David Hume was considered a Tory historian, and emphasised religious differences more than constitutional issues.
Historians have debated whether David Hume posited a universal unchanging human nature, or allowed for evolution and development.
The whig-dominated world of 1754 overwhelmingly disapproved of David Hume's take on English history.
David Hume developed new ways of seeing scientists in the context of their times by looking at how they interacted with society and each other.
David Hume covers over forty scientists, with special attention paid to Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton.
David Hume's writings have been described as largely seminal to conservative theory, and he is considered a founding father of conservatism.
David Hume stresses throughout his political essays the importance of moderation in politics, public spirit, and regard to the community.
David Hume's influence on some of the Founders can be seen in Benjamin Franklin's suggestion at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 that no high office in any branch of government should receive a salary, which is a suggestion David Hume had made in his emendation of James Harrington's Oceana.
David Hume thought that society is best governed by a general and impartial system of laws; he is less concerned about the form of government that administers these laws, so long as it does so fairly.
David Hume expressed suspicion of attempts to reform society in ways that departed from long-established custom, and he counselled peoples not to resist their governments except in cases of the most egregious tyranny.
Canadian philosopher Neil McArthur writes that David Hume believed that we should try to balance our demands for liberty with the need for strong authority, without sacrificing either.
American historian Douglass Adair has argued that David Hume was a major inspiration for James Madison's writings, and the essay "Federalist No 10" in particular.
David Hume offered his view on the best type of society in an essay titled "Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth", which lays out what he thought was the best form of government.
David Hume hoped that, "in some future age, an opportunity might be afforded of reducing the theory to practice, either by a dissolution of some old government, or by the combination of men to form a new one, in some distant part of the world".
David Hume defended a strict separation of powers, decentralisation, extending the franchise to anyone who held property of value and limiting the power of the clergy.
David Hume expressed his economic views in his Political Discourses, which were incorporated in Essays and Treatises as Part II of Essays, Moral and Political.
In contrast to Locke, David Hume believes that private property is not a natural right.
David Hume believed in an unequal distribution of property, because perfect equality would destroy the ideas of thrift and industry.
David Hume has been credited with being the first to prove that, on an abstract level, there is no quantifiable amount of nominal money that a country needs to thrive.
David Hume understood that there was a difference between nominal and real money.
Second, David Hume has a theory of causation which fits in with the Chicago-school "black box" approach.
David Hume shared the belief with modern monetarists that changes in the supply of money can affect consumption and investment.
Lastly, David Hume was a vocal advocate of a stable private sector, though having some non-monetarist aspects to his economic philosophy.
The writings of Thomas Reid, a Scottish philosopher and contemporary of David Hume, were often critical of David Hume's scepticism.
David Hume influenced, and was influenced by, the Christian philosopher Joseph Butler.
David Hume, I felt, was perfectly right in pointing out that induction cannot be logically justified.
David Hume pioneered a comparative history of religion, tried to explain various rites and traditions as being based on deception and challenged various aspects of rational and natural theology, such as the argument from design.
David Hume engaged with contemporary intellectuals including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Boswell, and Adam Smith.