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18th century Scottish philosopher
David Hume

David Hume (born David Home; 7 May 1711 [26 April 1711 O.S.] – 25 August 1776) was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism. Hume's empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behavior. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is ultimately founded solely in experience; Hume thus held that genuine knowledge must either be directly traceable to objects perceived in experience, or result from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are derived from experience, calling the rest "nothing but sophistry and illusion", a dichotomy later given the name Hume's fork.


David Hume, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 21 May 2014
Major sections: Life and Works - The relation between the Treatise and the Enquiries - Philosophical Project - Account of the Mind - Causation - The Idea of Necessary Connection - Moral Philosophy - Philosophy of Religion
Generally regarded as one of the most important philosophers to write in English, David Hume (b. 1711, d. 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 Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), as well as his posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779)—remain widely and deeply influential.
David Hume (1711-1776), The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, Dec 2007
Includes list of selected works
Though better known for his treatments of philosophy, history, and politics, the Scottish philosopher David Hume also made several essential contributions to economic thought. His empirical argument against British mercantilism formed a building block for classical economics. His essays on money and international trade published in Political Discourses strongly influenced his friend and fellow countryman Adam Smith. ... Hume showed that the increase in domestic prices due to the gold inflow would discourage exports and encourage imports, thus automatically limiting the amount by which exports would exceed imports.
David Hume (1711—1776), by James Fieser, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Major sections: Life - Origin and Association of Ideas - Epistemological Issues - Skepticism - Theory of the Passions - Religious Belief - Moral Theory - Aesthetic, Political, and Economic Theory - History and Philosophy - References and Further Reading
Part of Hume’s fame and importance owes to his boldly skeptical approach to a range of philosophical subjects. In epistemology, he questioned common notions of personal identity, and argued that there is no permanent 'self' that continues over time. He dismissed standard accounts of causality and argued that our conceptions of cause-effect relations are grounded in habits of thinking, rather than in the perception of causal forces in the external world itself. He defended the skeptical position that human reason is inherently contradictory, and it is only through naturally-instilled beliefs that we can navigate our way through common life.
Hume, David (1711-1776), by Jan Narveson, David Trenchard, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, was one of the most highly regarded thinkers who wrote in the English language. Although his contributions to the theory of knowledge as well as to moral and political philosophy form the basis of this high opinion, he also was the author of a highly acclaimed History of England in six volumes and many essays on various literary, moral, and political topics. Hume's first major work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), in the author's own account, 'fell dead-born from the press,' and its poor reception moved him to write two shorter and more popularly written essays ...


7 May 1711, in Edinburgh, Scotland


25 Aug 1776, in Edinburgh, Scotland

Web Pages

David Hume |
Introductory biographical summary and links to essays, columns and other resources about Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. ... A prominent figure in the skeptical philosophical tradition and a strong empiricist, he argued against the existence of innate ideas, concluding instead that humans have knowledge only of things they directly experience. ... Kant credited Hume with waking him up from his 'dogmatic slumbers' and Hume has proved extremely influential on subsequent philosophy ...


Adam Smith—"I had almost forgot that I was the author of the inquiry concerning The Wealth of Nations", by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1995
Biographical essay
It seems to have been Hutcheson who brought his bright student to the attention of controversial rationalist philosopher David Hume; Smith and Hume were to become best friends ... The one thing Oxford officials felt strongly about was rationalism—they hated it. When Smith was caught reading a copy of David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, which he probably got from Francis Hutcheson, he was reprimanded. The offensive volume was confiscated ... The first reactions came from his friends who had seen the book evolve. For example, David Hume, April 1, 1776—"Dear Mr. Smith: I am much pleas'd with your Performance ..."
David Hume and the Theory of Money, by Murray N. Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, 1995
Excerpted from chapter 15, section 15.4; brief overview and criticism of Hume's philosophical views followed by discussion of his monetary theory contrasting it with the thoughts of Cantillon, Turgot and Austrian school economists
David Hume (1711–76), the famous Scottish philosopher, was a close friend of Adam Smith's who was named Smith's executor, an acquaintance of Turgot's and of the French adherents of laissez-faire, and a member of the moderate élite of the Scottish Enlightenment. ... Hume studied on the Continent, where he published his epochal philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), at the age of 28. ... While highly influential in later decades, Hume's Treatise was ignored in his own day, and after writing it he turned to brief essays on political and economic topics ...
Economics Ideas: David Hume on Self-Coordinating and Correcting Market Processes, by Richard Ebeling, 5 Dec 2016
Explores Hume's contributions to the then young subject of "political economy", particularly on the mercantilist view of the need for a "positive" balance of trade
David Hume was one of the most prominent of the Scottish Moral Philosophers ... In addition, ... David Hume was an important and distinctly original contributor to economic theory and policy. It was in a collection of Essays, Moral and Political (1753-1754), that he made significant contributions to the emerging subject of "political economy." It is in these essays that Hume presented a devastating criticism of Mercantilist thinking on trade and commerce, while at the same time, demonstrating the self-regulating and "balancing" forces of the market process.
Related Topics: Free trade, Government, Money
A Foreign Policy by and for Knaves, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Oct 2014
Further thoughts on Richman's "Does Freedom Require Empire" (5 Sep 2014) prompted by Daniel McCarthy's counterpoint article as well as David Hume's and Leonard Read's writings
David Hume (1711-1776) was ... a provocative thinker and a key figure in the development of liberalism. Hume helped make the Scottish Enlightenment the important period it was. He also can be fun to read. Observe this from his essay "Of the Independency of Parliament": "Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government ..., every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest ..." Hume here embraces the views of thinkers we may regard as the progenitors of the Public Choice school.
Freedom Evolves, by Ronald Bailey, 19 Feb 2003
Review of philosophy professor Daniel C. Dennett's book Freedom Evolves
Dennett is trying to update David Hume in the light of Darwin's theory of evolution. ... As per Hume, we never see the 'cause' of an event; we only note the conjunction of two events in time and space and infer that one must have caused the other. ... 'Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil,' declared Hume. ... 'Liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains,' writes Hume.
Hayek and the Scots on Liberty [PDF], by Gerald P. O'Driscoll, Jr., The Journal of Private Enterprise, 2015
Explores the influence of the eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosophers, mainly David Hume and Adam Smith, on Hayek's thinking about liberty and concepts such as natural law theory
Hume wrote that 'the necessity of human nature' gives rise to 'three fundamental laws of nature.' These are 'the stability of possession, of its transference by consent, and of the performance of promises' ... Hayek quotes a lengthy passage from Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature to support his view that Hume was not an act utilitarian but a rule utilitarian (though employing different terminology). The passage ends, 'But, however single acts of justice may be contrary, either to public or private interest, it is certain that the whole of the scheme is highly conducive, or indeed, absolutely requisite, both to the support of society and the wellbeing of every individual'.
Interview with John Hospers, by John Hospers, Karen Minto, Full Context, Jun 1998
Topics discussed include: intellectual influences, respected philosophers, determinism, David Kelley, Ayn Rand, philosophy and Objectivism in universities, the Sense of Life documentary and Atlas Shrugged
Meanwhile, even prior to courses in philosophy, I was having more doubts about religion ... What saved me was the reading of David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion—which I still think is the greatest book ever written on the subject. It reflected so many of my own thoughts that I knew I was not alone. I remember thinking, for example, that if God is both all-good and all-powerful, he would not let people and animals suffer. ... That source of doubt was more important to me than the usual ones about where did God come from. I concluded with Hume that no attempt to get round this dilemma was successful.
It's Not Edward Snowden Who Betrayed Us, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Jun 2013
Discusses commentary from progressive and conservative apologists for the NSA surveillance disclosed by Snowden and constrasts them to writings by David Hume and Lord Acton
[David] Hume, one of the giants of the Scottish Enlightenment, noted,
Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government ... every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this interest we must govern him, and, by means of it, make him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, co-operate to public good. Without this, say they, we shall ... find, in the end, that we have no security for our liberties or possessions, except the good-will of our rulers; that is, we shall have no security at all.
Liberalism, by F. A. Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas, 1978
Chapter 9; originally written in 1973 for the Enciclopedia del Novicento; covers both the history of both strands of liberalism as well as a systematic description of the "classical" or "evolutionary" type
In Britain the intellectual foundations were further developed chiefly by the Scottish moral philosophers, above all David Hume and Adam Smith, as well as by some of their English contemporaries and immediate successors. Hume not only laid in his philosophical work the foundation of the liberal theory of law, but in his History of England (1754‑62) also provided an interpretation of' English history as the gradual emergence of the Rule of Law which made the conception known far beyond the limits of Britain.
Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Nov 2013
Responds to blogger Bruenig's criticism of the essay "One Moral Standard for All"; with quotes or examples from Roderick Long, Murray Rothbard, Gary Chartier, David Hume and Karl Hess
[T]he centrality of property in a proper human community cannot be denied. In A Treatise on Human Nature ..., David Hume referred to "the three fundamental laws of nature, that of the stability of possession, of its transference by consent, and of the performance of promises," noting that "'Tis on the strict observance of those three laws, that the peace and security of human society entirely depend; nor is there any possibility of establishing a good correspondence among men, where these are neglected. Society is absolutely necessary for the well-being of men; and these are as necessary to the support of society."


My Own Life, 18 Apr 1776
My studious disposition, my sobriety, and my industry, gave my family a notion that the law was a proper profession for me; but I found an insurmountable aversion to every thing but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning; and while they fancied I was poring upon Voet and Vinius, Cicero and Virgil were the authors which I was secretly devouring.


David Hume on interest, by Marginal Revolution University, Great Economists: Classical Economics and Its Forerunners, 12 Jun 2015
Discusses the main concepts made by Hume in his essay "Of Interest"
Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part Three: David Hume, by James Stacey Taylor, 21 Dec 2011
Discusses the life and some the philosophical views of David Hume, in particular his argument that reason is a "slave to the passions" and attitudes toward the property of others depending on presence or lack of familial connections
The third giant of the Scottish Enlightenment is undoubtedly David Hume. Like Adam Smith, Hume was also tremendously influenced by Francis Hutcheson. ... despite Hutcheson's disapproval, David Hume is undoubtedly one of the most good natured and pleasant of all of the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers. ... You are motivated by considerations of morality. What is right and what is wrong helps guide and determine your actions. But, notice, says Hume, if that's true, and it seems to be, morality cannot be rationally based. Because remember, it is not reason but our passions, our affections that lead us to perform certain actions.
Related Topic: Private Property

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "David Hume" as of 30 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.