Born on 26th of April 1711
Died in Edinburgh, Edinburgh and the Lothians
Died on 25th of August 1776
In trying to understand the mind the great Scottish philosopher David Hume concluded that nothing can be known beyond experience. His sceptical questioning of all accepted knowledge particularly that based on religious dogma earned him approbation in his own lifetime. Today it is taken as evidence of his genius.
David Hume was born May 7 1711 in Berwickshire and precociously studied at the University of Edinburgh from age 11 to 15, though he took no degree and drifted into law studies and even working as a commercial clerk in Bristol for a time. He then embarked on a rigorous ten year study of humanist learning from which he conceived his two lifelong passions: philosophy and history. In his lifetime he was most highly regarded as an historian but it his philosophical writings which have endured. His first, A Treatise on Human Nature, written when he was aged 26 was not well received and he rewrote it in a more accessible form as essays. These were published between 1741 and 1752 and stand as masterpieces of original thinking. Even so, because he questioned religious beliefs – he was almost certainly an atheist - he was seen as a subversive influence and rejected for teaching appointments at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities. Hume was far more successful as an historian. Published between 1754 and 1762 his six volume classic The History of England became the standard work on the subject for almost a century, eventually running to 160 editions.
Although criticised in England Hume was recognized as a great thinker in Europe. He was friendly with the leading French philosophers including Rousseau, Diderot and d’Alembert, and was feted during his two-year stay in Paris as secretary to the British Ambassador. He could also count on the support of the illustrious Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin. Hume continued his philosophical enquiries throughout his life. As always the clergy found objections and some of his more controversial topics could only be published posthumously. David Hume died in Edinburgh August 25, 1776.
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