One of the Greatest Empiricists of the Eighteenth Century: David Hume

One of the Greatest Empiricists of the Eighteenth Century: David Hume

Immediately interested in the humanities, Scottish philosopher aspired to become Newton of human nature

His literary works were warmly received by representatives of the Enlightenment culture. David Hume thus earned a place among the most representative writers of the Enlightenment. During his life, the Scottish thinker devoted much of himself to the study of philosophy, but he did not enjoy success directly proportional to his commitment. It was different for his works involving history. However, Hume has recorded an important milestone: his stimuli have inspired many philosophers, including Kant, who believed that the Scotsman was the one who awakened him from his “dogmatic sleep”.

Hume’s fundamentally innovative characterization is rooted in skepticism in the investigation of the outside world. The Scottish philosopher believed that human nature is composed more of emotion and instinct than reason, which is in contrast to the idea of ​​the Enlightenment. For Hume, reason was like an instinct that supported the specific beliefs and doubts of human beings. David Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1711. Although it was not his preferred choice, he studied law to please the family of the small landed aristocracy. In fact, he was attracted to the humanities: he liked to read classical writers such as Virgil, and after reaching the age of majority became passionate about philosophy, turning to a renewed work on the study of man.

He had a nervous breakdown because of so much intellectual activity; Thanks to many medical treatments, depressive crises followed. He worked as a lawyer in Bristol, but with success, he was not obsessed. To be able to study more profitably, in 1734 he moved to La Fleche in France; Thus, his major work was born, published between 1739 and 1740, “Treatise on Human Nature”. In this work the philosopher aimed to become a Newtonian of human nature, with the application of the experimental method to the study of man. The work was not successful initially.

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Hume returned across the Channel and here, a few years later, he successfully published the first part of his “Moral and Political Essays” in 1742. After being rejected by his city’s university for the chair of philosophy, he entered the world of politics, moving first to Austria and then to the beautiful country. In 1748 he was in the city of Mole Antonelliana when the text “Research on Human Intelligence” was published in London, a simple retelling of the first part of the treatise. A few years later he took on the role of librarian at the Edinburgh School of Lawyers; In this way, he had the opportunity to elaborate on the work “History of England”, which increased his fame; This is a time period analysis from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the rise of Henry VII. He went back to France, where he held the position of secretary to the English ambassador in Paris.

In 1757 the work “The Natural History of Religion” was published, one of the major works of the English philosopher, which focused on the concept of monotheism, which was often rejected in favor of a more open polytheism. He lived in the French capital until 1766, collaborating with prominent intellectuals. When he returned to England, he hosted Rousseau; However, due to the difficult character of the French, differences arose between the two and the friendship ended. Hume was then able to lead a comfortable life with his sister; Died on 25 August 1776 in Edinburgh.

Scottish philosophers currently remember the law called “Hume’s guillotine”. According to this law, it is always necessary to distinguish between what is and what should be; One cannot go from propositions indicating facts to propositions indicating values. It is a way of knowing man, a morality. Based on facts, for David, science has nothing to do with ethics; The question, however, is still open. Some philosophers such as Moore and Austin have adopted this rule. In the case of the English philosopher Moore, he adopted this law in 1900, arguing that it was not possible to base morality on any form of knowledge; An example is formed by the concept of good, which is not knowable in a rational way, but which is innate in the subjective realm of emotion. From the Scottish Philosopher’s Law, Moore derived his concept of natural fallacy, which leads to prescriptions from descriptions.


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