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Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules.
Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.
Theology is a game whose object is to bring rules into the subjective.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) developed a philosophy of "mitigated skepticism," which remains a viable alternative to the systems of rationalism, empiricism, and idealism."

Born: 26 April 1711, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
David Hume was a prominent figure of the 18th century's Scottish Enlightenment, known especially for his skepticism and rejection of theism. His early philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature, first published anonymously around 1739, is considered a standard of Western philosophy. Hume, taking his cue from John Locke, rejected metaphysics in favor of a focus on the empirical method -- the idea that experience and observation should be the foundation of all human knowledge. His dismissal of religion kept him from getting desired academic posts, but Hume became well known for his philosophical works and the controversies they caused, and his multi-volume History of England (1754-62) made him financially secure in his later years. Like his friend Adam Smith, Hume wrote about politics, economics and the moral obligations of government. Some of his most famous works are posthumously published works on religion, including A Natural History of Religion and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.
Hume famously helped Jean-Jacques Rousseau out of Switzerland, then set him up at a house in England. Rousseau ended up accusing Hume of being part of a plot against him, and the two had a public falling out, with Hume publishing his defense as A Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute Between Mr. Hume and Mr. Rousseau: With the Letters that Passed Between Them During Their Controversy (1766).
If one was to judge a philosopher by a gauge of relevance - the quantity of issues and arguments raised by him that remain central to contemporary thought - David Hume would be rated among the most important figures in philosophy. Ironically, his philosophical writings went unnoticed during his lifetime, and the considerable fame he achieved derived from his work as anessayist and historian. Immanuel Kant's acknowledgment that Hume roused him from his "dogmatic slumbers" stimulated interest in Hume's thought.
With respect to Hume's life there is no better source than the succinct autobiography, My Own Life, written 4 months before his death. He was born on April 26, 1711, on the family estate, Ninewells, near Edinburgh. According to Hume, the "ruling passion" of his life was literature, and thus his story contains "little more than the History of my writings." As a second son, he was not entitled to a large inheritance, and he failed in two family-sponsored careers in law and business because of his "unsurmountable aversion to everything but the pursuits of Philosophy and general learning." Until he was past 40, Hume was employed only twice. He spent a year in England as a tutor to a mentally ill nobleman, and from 1745 to 1747 Hume was an officer and aide-de-camp to Gen. James Sinclair and attended him on an expedition to the coast of France and military embassies in Vienna and Turin.

Major Works
During an earlier stay in France (1734-1737) Hume had written his major philosophic work, A Treatise of Human Nature. The first two volumes were published in 1739 and the third appeared in the following year. The critical reception of the work was singularly unfortunate. In Hume's own words, the Treatise "fell dead born from the press." Book I of the Treatise was recast as An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding and published in 1748. The third volume with minor revisions appeared in 1751 as An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. The second volume of the Treatise was republished as Part 2 of Four Dissertations in 1757. Two sections of this work dealing with liberty and necessity had been incorporated in the first Enquiry. Hume's other important work, Dialogues concerningNatural Religion, was substantially complete by the mid-1750s, but because of its controversial nature it was published posthumously.
During his lifetime Hume's reputation derived from the publication of his Political Discourses(1751) and six-volume History of England (1754-1762). When he went to France in 1763 as secretary to the English ambassador, Hume discovered that he was a literary celebrity and a revered figure among the philosophes. He led a very happy and active social life even after his retirement to Edinburgh in 1769. He died there on Aug. 25, 1776. He specified in his will that thegravestone be marked only with his name and dates, "leaving it to Posterity to add the rest."
His died 25 August 1776.

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