Biographical Notes on David Hume

Biographical Notes on David Hume prepared by Eduardo Chaves, who wrote about him his Ph.D. Dissertation in the years 1970-1972 in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pittsburgh. The Notes are supplemented by two quotes from well known encyclopedias.

David Hume, Scottish author whose life encompasses most of the eighteenth-century, the so-called Age of Enlightenment, was:

* Philosopher
* Historian
* Economist
* Essayist

His philosophy emphasizes three tendencies:

* Empiricism
* Skepticism
* Naturalism

Based on these tendencies, Hume is best known, philosophically, for his criticism of metaphysics (especially of the rationalist or idealist kind) and of all kinds of transcendentalism and supernaturalism. Thus, it is to be expected that theology and religion received his severest criticisms.

Still philosophically, he is also famous for his criticism of the traditional concept of natural cause and of the inductive method, which presented a considerable challenge to the still young empirical science – challenge that was only overcome with the work of Sir Karl Raymund Popper in the twentieth century, who gave science its hypothetico-deductive method.

Still staying within philosophy, Hume defended an ethics (moral theory) based on natural sentiment, and not on reason or on external authorities, such as divine revelation – being this one of the faces of his naturalism.

Historically, Hume is best known for his monumental History of England, in six volumes, which, though written in the middle of the eighteenth century, was still in use in Great Britain well into the 20th century.

In economy, Hume, alongside Adam Smith, his younger and best friend, is considered one of the fathers of liberalism in its original (today classical) version.

Eduardo CHAVES
In Salto, SP, on the 5th of May of 2019

Below, brief quotes from two biographies of David Hume in well-known Encyclopedias, the second being more complete.

Wikipedia (US/EN)

“David Hume, born as David Home on 7 May 1711 (in Edinburgh, Scotland), and who died on 25 August 1776 (also in Edinburgh), was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism”.

[Wikipedia, omitting the sources and adding the places of birth and death. For the full article see the address that follows]

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Generally regarded as one of the most important philosophers to write in English, David Hume (1711–1776) was also well known in his own time as an historian and essayist. A master stylist in any genre, his major philosophical works—A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–1740), the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748) and the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), as well as his posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779)—remain widely and deeply influential.

Although Hume’s more conservative contemporaries denounced his writings as works of skepticism and atheism, his influence is evident in the moral philosophy and economic writings of his close friend Adam Smith.

Kant reported that Hume’s work woke him from his “dogmatic slumbers” and Jeremy Bentham remarked that reading Hume “caused the scales to fall” from his eyes. Charles Darwin regarded his work as a central influence on the theory of evolution. The diverse directions in which these writers took what they gleaned from reading him reflect both the richness of their sources and the wide range of his empiricism.

Today, philosophers recognize Hume as a thoroughgoing exponent of philosophical naturalism, as a precursor of contemporary cognitive science, and as the inspiration for several of the most significant types of ethical theory developed in contemporary moral philosophy.”

[Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. For the full biography in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy see the address that follows]

Transcribed by Eduardo CHAVES
In Salto, SP, on the 5th of May of 2019

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