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Subject:  Happy Birthday, David Hume Date:  5/7/2002  10:56 AM
Author:  jwwhitlock Number:  34 of 46

Today is David Hume's birthday. Garrison Keillor reminded me on his Writer's Almanac (http://almanac.mpr.org/index.html). Here's what he had to say (http://almanac.mpr.org/docs/02_05_06.htm#tuesday)

It's the birthday of David Hume, born near Edinburgh, Scotland (1711). His family wanted him to become a lawyer, but he preferred literature and philosophy, and he ignored their pleading. After finishing his studies he moved to France, where he wrote what is considered his most significant work, the Treatise on Human Nature. In it, Hume said that reasoning - even apparently watertight reasoning, like cause-and-effect deduction - was merely the habit of the mind as it attempted to make sense of random events, and that reason would never be adequate to arrive at the ultimate cause of anything.

Hume is often considered the greatest philosopher to write in the English language, and influenced many, including Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus (in other words, he an economist's philosopher). He doubted that people could think rationally, and built a moral code around natural sensibilities rather than a rational or religious code. In one work, "On Suicide", he defended the moral right of suicide, and in "Of the Immortality of the Soul", he questioned the posibility of life after death. For these and other writings, he was opposed by religious people at every turn, and didn't get much scholarly respect until well after his death.

There's a good biography at:
http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/h/humelife.htm

Project Gutenberg has a few of David Hume's works (if these don't work, go to http://promo.net/pg/ and search for HUME:
An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals
http://ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03/nqpmr10.txt
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
http://ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03/dlgnr10.txt
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