Historical Who is Who

HUME, David

1711 - 1776


Lifelong philosopher and historian operating outside the academic university environment. His approach is deliberately empirical and therefore inclining to be sceptical of theoretical reasoning in both politics and religion. An early book on Human Nature has as its subtitle: “An attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects.” Such traditional appeals to the laws of nature or the notion of a social contract he challenges with the observation that you cannot justify claims as to what ought to be on the basis of what is merely habitually the case (the ‘naturalistic fallacy’). Similarly, appeals to miracles and special revelation are inadequate bases for beliefs which must always be put to the test of common sense. No publicly funded moral education or religious education can be justified without addressing this challenge. For the record, Hume refused to be called an atheist – that would involve him in a belief statement he could not prove.




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