Full Text

25. Hume

W. H. NEWTON-SMITH


Subject Philosophy

People Hume, David

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00028.x


Extract

David Hume is the greatest figure in the empiricist tradition in philosophy and was a particular source of inspiration for the logical positivists (see logical positivism ). Hume was born in 1711 and entered Edinburgh University at the age of 12. After graduating, he had a varied career in commerce, diplomacy, as a librarian, and as a writer of history. Twice he was secretary to General St Clair and on one occasion set off with him on an expedition to drive the French out of Canada. Forced back by the wind, it was decided instead to make a brief incursion on the coast of Brittany. This failed, for the expedition had maps of Canada, but none of Brittany. During a three-year stay in France he wrote his major philosophical work Treatise of Human Nature. It appeared in 1739 and, in his own words, “fell dead-born from the Press.” His Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding , which was intended to be a more popular version of book I of his Treatise , was published in 1748 but was only a little more favorably received. His six-volume History of England , on the other hand, was a great success. He died in 1776, never having succeeded in his ambition to be appointed to a professorship of philosophy in Scotland, due to his religious skepticism. Hume aimed to develop a science of man in his acting, feeling, and thinking aspects. His hope of achieving for the study of mind what Newton ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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