Hume in introduction to philosophy

28th September 2020


David Hume was born in Edinburgh, from a poor family. he was supposed to study law, which he hated. In the 1730s he started to systematically study Philosophy. Because of the intensity and excitement of his intellectual discovery, he had a nervous breakdown in 1729. In 1734, he came to the turning point of his life and retired to France for three years. Most of this time he spent at La Flèche on the Loire, studying and writing A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40). The Treatise was Hume’s attempt to formulate a full-fledged philosophical system. It was divided into three books:

  1. Book I, “Of the Understanding”, discusses, in order, the origin of ideas; the ideas of space and time; knowledge and probability, including the nature of causality; and the skeptical implications of those theories.
  2. Book II, “Of the Passions”, describes an elaborate psychological machinery to explain the emotional order in humans and assigns a subordinate role to reason in this mechanism.
  3. Book III, on morals, characterizes moral goodness in terms of “feelings” of approval or disapproval that people have when they consider human behavior in the light of agreeable or disagreeable consequences, either to themselves or to others.

Since these books had very little success, he focused on publishing essays: a short an more colloquial analysis of a set of questions. Among them, there is Enquiry on Human Understanding. He was accused of being a skeptic and irreligious, so he couldn’t get a chair in at the Edinburgh and become a librarian instead.
(Essays: Montaigne the first one to use the essay form, but in a more personal way.)
The essay on Human Understanding became a bestseller, and he became rich.

He then moved to France and met Diderot, D’Allembert, Rousseau. He proposed to Rousseau to go to England.

He decided to postpone the publication of the Dialogues on human religion, always because of the former accusation of atheism, and they were published in 1779, after his death, which occurred in 1776.

Notes on !An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding



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