David Hume philosophy, life and legacy

The philsosophy, life & legacy of David Hume : Summary

David Hume, Scotland's most famous philosopher, was born in Edinburgh on 7th May, 1711, and died in Edinburgh on 25th August, 1776 at the age of 65. He was a founder and an important figure of the British Renaissance ("reawakening"), the Scottish Enlightenment and the agnostic school of philosophy - taking Empiricism ("reasoning through experience") to its logical conclusion of total scepticism, limited only by practical reservations. His writings questioned the truth of religious dogma for which he paid the price of not being seriously considered for professor at either Edinburgh or Glasgow Universities. He was sociable and had many friends, but his life was spent in study and writing, except for several short interruptions when he was a secretary to military missions (later to become Embassies) in Austria, Italy and France, and when he was the under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

Philosopher David Hume's life falls into two base locations :

1. David Hume's Chirnside:

For his first 41 years philosopher David Humes' home was in the country at Ninewells, a farmstead near Chirnside, Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. When he was two years old, his father (a lawyer turned country gentleman) died and he was brought up by his mother (whose own father was an eminent Edinburgh lawyer). She oversaw his early education and hoped that he would become a lawyer. He attended Edinburgh University at the age of twelve, but gave up law studies in favour of his passion for philosophy and literature (especially the Latin and Greek Classics). His strenuous studying seriously affected his mental and physical health. Seeking less arduous mental activity he became, for a short time in England, a tutor and then a merchant; but he found these employments unfulfilling. So he spent three years in "retreat" in France, during which time, before he was 25, he wrote his "Treatise of Human Nature", an extensive work in three volumes. Returning to Ninewells he wrote moral, political and literary essays. After a year as tutor to a Marquis in England, he became secretary to General St. Clair on a military expedition against the French that was supposed to take him to America and on to Canada, but was redirected to France itself due to turbulent weather. He returned to Ninewells to write his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, which included rewriting parts of his treatise (which had "fallen dead born" from the press and required rewriting). He then rejoined General St. Clair, this time as secretary on a mission to Austria and Italy. He again returned to Ninewells to write essays on political economy and imaginary dialogues on religion.

David Hume philosophy - Citizen of the World

The teaching philosophy lesson David Hume "Citizen of the World" as performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is available to purchase from lulu.com.

Buy this philosophy play

2. David Hume's Edinburgh:

For the last 24 years of philosopher David Humes' life his base was in the capital where he valued his contacts and further friendships, most notably with Adam Smith, the moral and political economist. As librarian to the Faculty of Advocates Hume had access to a vast amount of resource material which he used for writing his objective History of England. When he was Secretary to the British Mission in Paris, he helped introduce Benjamin Franklin to French society and later to Scottish society. After a year as secretary to the British Ambassador to France, he returned to Britain with Jean Jacques Rousseau, a tale with an unpleasant ending. Against the views of his own government and most British people, Hume publicly supported independence for the American colonies. In his last two years he suffered from what was probably cancer of the intestines; but he surprised all his friends with his good spirits, as he continued to work on further editions of his writings. He gave his last dinner party on July 4th, 1776, unwittingly celebrating the day America declared its Independence for which he, against British public opinion, had campaigned for being gained through an Act of Parliament releasing the colonies rather than through Britain provoking a revolutionary war. If a film were made of David HUME today, it could perhaps be called "Bravehead".He died on 25th August, 1776.

There is no instance of a man of genius who has wasted less in idleness or in unavailing pursuits. Money was not his object, nor was temporary fame; though, of the means of independent livelihood, and a good repute among men, he never lost sight: but his ruling ambition, pursued in poverty and riches, in health and sickness, in laborious obscurity and amidst the blaze of fame, was to establish a permanent name, resting on the foundation of literary achievements, likely to live as long as human thought endured, and mental philosophy was studied.
-- J.H. Burton, Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Vol. 1, p 18.

Who is David Hume? David Hume characteristics.

David Hume ( born May 7 April 26, 1711, Edinburgh, Scotland—died August 25, 1776, Edinburgh ) A Scottish philosopher and historian and is best known today for his involvement with Scottish Enlightenment, Naturalism, Skepticism and Empiricism. He wrote extensively on the philosophy of religion in particular Hume on Miracles and moral philosophy.

David Hume characteristics : Your face is broad and fat with a wide mouth, and eyes somewhat vacant and spiritless, with you looking more like a “turtle-eating alderman” than a refined philosopher. You have an ungainly figure and gauche manner. If you are wise -- and you are very wise -- this is disguised in uncouth garb.

Your informal speech is in the tone, idiom and voice of a commoner in Berwickshire, gained more from conversations in your youth with the servants at Ninewells than from the military officers and nobles with whom you later associated. But your more formal speech, which once held a broad Scots accent, now is relatively unprovincial due to your time spent in England and France. Your formal English, therefore, is scarcely distinguishable from that of your English friends. Your voice has a softness rather than a manly harshness to it due, perhaps, to the death of your father in your early childhood and to being reared by your mother. You are often playful in conversation, using irony freely. Because of the openness with which you speak, when you are resolved to tell a joke, someone is likely to beg you to keep it for another occasion. Your witticisms can be harshly sarcastic, but not if they would offend the company you are in.

You are a man of punctual habits and unwearied industry with the clear, systematic mind, and precise use of language and neatness of handwriting, that is well able to compose official documents. You are at home in Greek, Latin and French. You devote much time to reading classical literature and writing about philosophy and preparing careful and stylish letters. You are known as eminent in breadth of learning, acuteness of thought and elegance of writing, and yet a man of simple goodness and cheerfulness. Those with whom you disagree, and there are many, you do not criticise (with one notable exception: Jean-Jacques Rousseau) because you want even them as your friends and not as your enemies. You are an agnostic living in a largely Calvinist country, but you are fond of good preaching and not adverse even to one or two ministers who see you as an opponent. And you avoid engaging in religious controversy because you do not wish to offend.

David Hume walkway Chirnside

David Hume Walk Chirnside, Scotland
where we scattered the ashes of Wally Shaw.

You are not argumentative. You are kind, charitable and of tolerant disposition, offering a degree of simplicity and gentleness in the companionship you offer. You lack self-importance: appearing to enjoy every amusement of ordinary life, being interested in the most common topics, and having the air of wanting to talk about anything but philosophy or religion unless pressed to do so. You speak with plainness rather than eloquence and without even a hint of dogmatism. If others speak of their pleasure in music, you reveal humility in your ability to understand it and appreciation in your observation of the delight it brings to others. If others speak of their inspiration from religion in a way that is foreign to you, you show respect for the enjoyment brought to their senses. Yet you show distaste for religious prejudice and controversy.

the philosophical works of David Hume

We have extensive notes on the philosophical works of David Hume and David Hume on Miracles written by Rev Dr Wally Shaw.

David Hume philosophy quotes

Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.

The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstructions in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought so far to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.

The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.

It is only from the selfishness and confined generosity of men, along with the scanty provision nature has made for his wants, that justice derives its origins.
more David Hume Quotes

Our Philosophy plays & Philosophy Lessons on David Hume

Are you Interested in using our philosophy play on the philosophy, life and legacy of Philosopher David Hume during your University Philosophy, High School Philosophy, Open University and College Philosophy class? We have advice for your philosophy lesson on the Philosophy of David Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment.

We have had great feedback and reviews of our philosophy plays as performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007, 2008 & 2009 as a resource for those wanting to learn about philosophy including our philosophy play on David Hume.


Living Philosophy for plays, activities and teaching philosophy lessons.
07557735595 29 Gillespie Road, Edinburgh, EH13 0NW

Our facebook pageour google+ pageour twitter page