Hume, David


Hume, David

biographical name

(born May 7, 1711, Edinburgh, Scot.—died Aug. 25, 1776, Edinburgh) Scottish philosopher, historian, and economist. He conceived of philosophy as the inductive, experimental science of human nature. His first major work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), explains the origin of ideas, including the ideas of space, time, and causality, in sense experience; presents an elaborate account of the affective, or emotional, aspects of the mind and assigns a subordinate role to reason in this order (“Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions”); and describes moral goodness in terms of “feelings” of approval or disapproval that a person has when he considers human behaviour in the light of the agreeable or disagreeable consequences either to himself or to others. The Treatise was poorly received, and late in life Hume repudiated it as juvenile. He revised Book I of the Treatise as An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1758); a revision of Book III was published as An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751). His Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), containing a refutation of the argument from design and a critique of the notion of miracles, was withheld from publication during his lifetime at the urging of friends. From his account of the origin of ideas Hume concluded that we have no knowledge of a “self” as the enduring subject of experience; nor do we have knowledge of any “necessary connection” between causally related events. Immanuel Kant, who developed his critical philosophy in direct reaction to Hume, said that Hume had awakened him from his “dogmatic slumbers.” In Britain, Hume's moral theory influenced Jeremy Bentham to adopt utilitarianism. With John Locke and George Berkeley, Hume is regarded as one of the great philosophers of empiricism.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Hume, David, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up Hume, David? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.

Get Our Free Apps
Voice Search, Favorites,
Word of the Day, and More
Join Us on FB & Twitter
Get the Word of the Day and More