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History
IN OUR TIME'S GREATEST PHILOSOPHER VOTE
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GREATEST PHILOSOPHER

 
David Hume (1711-1776)
advocated by Julian Baggini

 Listen to Julian Baggini say why you should vote for David Hume

'Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken.'

David Hume. Born and educated in Edinburgh, Hume wrote his first great work A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) having moved to Anjou in France. It set Hume up as an empiricist in the tradition of Locke and Berkely but one who was massively sceptical about what he, or indeed anybody, can know.

He continued to outline his ideas in two major works - An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) and An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals (1751).

For Hume almost nothing about existence was demonstrable; just because the sun had always risen in the morning didn’t mean we could ‘know’ that it would rise tomorrow.

Furthermore, the idea of the sun that we had in our brain was a long way removed from the actual sun as it existed. He applied this to the concept of beauty saying "Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them".

Although he took scepticism to the extremes, Hume acknowledged its irrelevance to every day life and was quite capable of applying his mind to a whole range of practical issues such as economics, trade and finance.

His Political Discourses of 1752, for example, anticipated the economics of Adam Smith.

Regarding the existence of God, Hume’s position was an incisive agnosticism but this was enough to have him barred from professorships at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.

However, he gained a position as keeper of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh and wrote his best-selling History of England (1754-62).

He also became secretary to the British ambassador in Paris and is reputed to have cut quite a dash in French society.

Works by David Hume on Project Gutenberg including An Equiry Concerning Human Understanding, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and A Treatise of Human Nature.

Read about David Hume on Wikipedia

Read about David Hume on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Read about David Hume on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Please note: the BBC accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites.

 Listen to Julian Baggini say why you should vote for David Hume

Julian Baggini

Julian Baggini is Editor and co-founder of The Philosophers Magazine which is published in both Britain and America. He writes in numerous publications including The Guardian, The Financial Review and The Sceptic Magazine. He is co-editor of New British Philosophy: The Interviews (2002); and has written What's it All About: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life; The Philosopher's Toolkit (2002); Philosophy: Key Texts (2002); Philosophy: Key Themes (2002).

 
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