The Philosophy of David Hume

The Philosophy of David Hume

The Philosophy of David Hume

The Philosophy of David Hume

Excerpt

David Hume is probably the greatest philosopher to write in English, and it is chiefly as a philosopher that he is read today. In his own time, however, he was more famous as an essayist, political theorist, historian, and man of letters than as a metaphysician and moralist. Of course philosophy was not so sharply separated from other disciplines in the eighteenth century as it is in our day. Also, the great philosophical figures of the seventeenth century had established a tradition of combining philosophical studies with other intellectual pursuits. There is this difference, however, between Hume and these earlier philosophers. Whereas Descartes and Leibniz, Malebranche and even Locke were primarily natural scientists, interested in mathematics, physics, and physiology when they were not philosophers, Hume's interest was in the social sciences, the studies of man as moral agent and social being. Hume was an indifferent mathematician and had no great knowledge of physics and anatomy, but in history, economics, politics, and literature his understanding was both broad and deep. This difference was in part, no doubt, a 'function of the age, for the majority of eighteenth century intellectuals, like Socrates before them, had turned to man, having been inspired by and yet dissatisfied with the great accomplishments of the preceding age in the sciences of nature. But the dif-

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