22
DAVID HUME

David Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711 into a strict Scottish Presbyterian family. He was taught at home until the age of twelve, when he entered the University of Edinburgh, where he was to pursue a legal career. Instead he fell in love with philosophy. He lost his religious faith and tended toward skepticism. Still in his early twenties he tried a career in business, but it was not suitable to his personality. He suffered exhaustion and in 1734 he traveled to France and eventually found lodging at La Fleche, Descartes' alma mater. There he argued with the Jesuits about miracles and completed his Treatise on Human Nature. The book was published in England in January 1739, but sold few copies and received very little attention. Hume noted in his autobiography that it “fell dead-born from the press.” Today this work of the youthful Hume is considered one of the classics of philosophy. Encouraged by the success of his work Essays Moral and Political (1741), he decided to revise the Treatise and published it under the title An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding(1748). The entire book is reprinted below. In 1752 Hume became the Librarian to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh. While in this position he wrote his famous history of England. Hume never married. He was disappointed in love, having been rejected by the woman he proposed to marry—apparently she found him obese and clumsy. He was, nevertheless, a charming man with a good sense of humor, popular at social occasions, modest, mild, and moral, a generous friend. He died of cancer of the bowel on August 25, 1776, the year of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence. Hume's final masterpiece, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, had been written around 1751 but was left unpublished until after his death. Hume apparently thought its critique of religion too dangerous to publish. It appeared in print in 1779. It is reprinted below.


HUME'S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

Whereas Descartes was a Rationalist, who believed that reason could discover all truth, especially metaphysical truth, Hume, like Locke, is an Empiricist, who believes that we must start with our perceptions and reason from there. Descartes was a global skeptic, doubting even mathematical truth, whereas Hume is a local skeptic. He does not doubt truths of mathematics or logic as well as commonsense truth (e.g., memory reports and sensory impressions), but he doubts all metaphysical propositions: the existence of God, miracles, the idea of a self, material substance, free will, cause and effect, and induction.

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Classics of Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Time Line xi
  • Part One - The Ancient Period 1
  • 1: The Pre-Socratics 3
  • 2: Plato 20
  • 3: Aristotle 240
  • 4: Epicurus 357
  • 5: Epictetus 363
  • 6: Sextus Empiricus 374
  • 7: Plotinus 391
  • Part Two - The Medieval Period 405
  • 8: Augustine 407
  • 9: Boethius 447
  • 10: Avicenna 455
  • 11: Anselm and Gaunilo 458
  • 12: Thomas Aquinas 462
  • 13: William of Ockham 486
  • Part Three - The Modern Period 493
  • 14: René Descartes 495
  • 15: Thomas Hobbes 525
  • 16: Blaise Pascal 566
  • 17: Baruch Spinoza 570
  • 18: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 618
  • 19: John Locke 652
  • 20: George Berkeley 690
  • 21: William Paley 723
  • 22: David Hume 726
  • 23: Immanuel Kant 819
  • 24: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 914
  • 25: Søren Kierkegaard 922
  • 26: Mary Wollstonecraft 935
  • 27: John Stuart Mill 942
  • 28: Friedrich Nietzsche 1030
  • Part Four - The Contemporary Period 1059
  • 29: W. K. Clifford 1061
  • 30: Charles Sanders Peirce 1066
  • 31: William James 1076
  • 32: Bertrand Russell 1100
  • 33: G. E. Moore 1142
  • 34: Ludwig Wittgenstein 1150
  • 35: Edmund Husserl 1168
  • 36: Martin Heidegger 1185
  • 37: Jean-Paul Sartre 1207
  • 38: A. J. Ayer 1225
  • 39: Thomas Nagel 1234
  • 40: Philippa Foot 1242
  • 41: Nelson Goodman 1249
  • 42: John Rawls 1254
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