Philosopher, historian, and economist. Born April 26, 1711 in Berwickshire, Scotland. Died 1776.

He spent a lot of his time questioning religion, but also worked on space, time, free will, free trade, causality, and morality. Due to his attacks on Christianity he had some trouble with the church -- his objections to the JCI God are quite clever, and still oft quoted.

He and his friend Adam Smith were two of the biggest players in the Scottish Enlightenment.

He died of "internal disorders". But, who doesn't? (It was probably cancer).

Hume offered refuge to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had been ordered out of Switzerland in 1766. Rousseau, being suspicious of plots against him, publicly accused Hume of conspiring to ruin his character (which was pretty much ruined already--go read about Rousseau next). Hume, who tended to write about everything, sent out a flyer to the public explaining that this was not the case.

Hume has stuff named after him -- see Hume's Fork, Hume's Law, and Hume's Maxim. If you are interested in his work (and you should be), You might also want to look at Hume's Problem of Induction, Hume, Empiricism, and Miracles, and David Hume on Causality.



"Truth springs from argument amongst friends."

David Hume was an 18th century Scottish philosopher, writer, economist, and historian. He was a contemporary to Adam Smith, as well as the famous Jean Jacques Rousseau. He rejected the idea of causality, and therefore most scientific laws as well. He also rejected the idea of the individual and believed that one must always do what was best for the community, and had novel ideas about history and economics.

Life and Works

David Hume was born on May 7, 1711 near Edinburgh, Scotland. He was educated at home, and then at the University of Edinburgh, where he was admitted at the age of 12. From 1737 to 1743 he was mainly interested in speculative philosophy. In 1739 he published A Treatise of Human Nature, his most well-known work. This work was unpopular at the time, probably because of its dry style - Hume himself said it was "Dead-born from the press."

He then returned to his family's estate in Berwickshire, and studied ethics, politics, and economics. He soon published Essays Moral and Political, which was very successful, and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, a condensed version of the Treatise. However, he was not offered the professorship he wanted because he was seen as a religious skeptic.

After he lost his bid for professorship, he moved back to Edinburgh and was appointed librarian of the Advocates Library. From 1754 to 1762 he published History of England in six volumes, a work still considered a classic. He became ambassador to France in 1762, where he was prominent among French philosophers, including Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau returned with Hume to England, but Rousseau's paranoia caused the friendship to dissolve.

Hume returned to Edinburgh, where he remained until his death in 1776. Several of his minor works were published posthumously.

His Ideas

Hume went along with other contemporary philosophers, differentiating between reason and sensation. He went further, however, claiming that reason and rational thought were "Merely habitual associations of direct sensation and experience..."

He rejected causality, saying that "reason can never show us the connexion of one object to another." This means that he also rejected scientific laws, which are based on causality. In fact, he rejected the idea of the individual, saying that each "individual" was nothing but a "bundle of different perceptions" However, he did admit that people must use causality in day to day life, and that relationships among ideas are possible.

Since he rejected the individual self, he believed that one must always try to do what is best for the entire community, and this is what he believed would benefit each "individual" the most as well.

Hume was one of the first not to record history mainly as a series of wars and actions of monarchs, instead focusing on political and intellectual forces. He believed that wealth did not depend on money, but on commodities, and saw how the social environment affected economics, ideas which later influenced Adam Smith.

David Hume, along with John Locke and George Berkeley, is generally credited with starting the school of philosophy known as British Empiricism (or just empiricism).

In contrast to early philosophers, particularly Rene Descartes, empiricists believe all knowledge is derived from sense data. They reject the class of ideas known as a priori (innate ideas) as pure rubbish. To a empiricist, people are born as tabula rasa, or clean slates without any knowledge. Only through the senses is information recorded, processed, and formed into new ideas.

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