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Hume, David (1711–1776)

Subject Religion

People Hume, David

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Scottish philosopher and historian, born in Edinburgh and frequently regarded as one of the key figures in the so-called Scottish Enlightenment, along with Adam Smith and James Boswell. He published A Treatise of Human Nature in 1739–40, and when this was not well received, rewrote it in two volumes: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Still not receiving public recognition, he turned to history, and published a history of Great Britain in several volumes, for which he became widely known. He was also renowned during his life as a statesman, economist and army officer. His Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , an attack on natural religion, was published after his death, in 1779. Philosophically, Hume wanted to apply Newtonian scientific mediod to the study of humanity. He is most well-known for his work on causality. He argued that there is no logical link between cause and effect, only conclusions which we have drawn from repeated observation. Thus we can have no certainty that one event will follow from another; we can only assert a degree of probability. Hume also questioned ideas such as the existence of a personal identity which persists over time. His scepticism extends into metaphysics, with the contention that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated, but only seen as a probability. Hume was – and still ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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