THE PURSUITS OF PHILOSOPHY

THE PURSUITS OF PHILOSOPHY

Annette C. Baier
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbqqc
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  • Book Info
    THE PURSUITS OF PHILOSOPHY
    Book Description:

    Marking the tercentenary of Hume's birth, Annette Baier has created an engaging guide to the philosophy of one of the greatest thinkers of Enlightenment Britain. Drawing on a lifetime of scholarship and incisive commentary, she finds in Hume’s personal experiences new ways to illuminate his ideas about religion, human nature, and the social order.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06308-2
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-5)

    David Hume’s life is an oft-told tale. He wrote it up for us, in very brief compass, in the last year of his life, and I shall incorporate what he wrote here, quoting from it at the start of each of my chapters, and omitting none of it. Smellie, Ritchie, Burton, Huxley, Stephen, and Knight in the nineteenth century; Orr, Greig, Mossner, and Streminger in the twentieth century; and Graham in this century have all found Hume’s life worth their efforts. And others, such as Hill in his 1888 edition of Hume’s letters to his publisher, Strahan, and Ayer, Price,...

  4. 1 CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH: Loss of Faith and a Passion for Literature
    (pp. 6-14)

    David Hume was, as he tells us, born in Edinburgh in 1711 on April 26, “old style” (on May 7, by our Gregorian calendar, only adopted in Britain in 1752), the third child and second son of Joseph Home (pronounced “Hume”) and Katherine Falconer, daughter of Sir David Falconer, who had been chief justice in Scotland. Hume writes in his Treatise that the strongest tie the human mind is capable of is the love of parents for their children, and his mother showed that love, but his father died in his infancy. His parents had grown up together on the...

  5. 2 “AT A DISTANCE FROM RELATIONS”: Writing His Treatise in France
    (pp. 15-54)

    When Hume went to France in September 1734, he lived at first in Paris, then for a while in Rheims, where he had some letters of introduction and wrote back to his friend, Michael Ramsay, comparing French and English customs of polite address. Such customs he later called “small morals,” likening them to the rules of justice. The latter stop collisions of different persons’ interests, while good manners protect everyone’s pride. He finally settled in as a lodger in a small chateau, Yvandeau, near La Flèche, where there was an excellent library in the Jesuit College, where Descartes had been...

  6. 3 HUME AFTER THE TREATISE
    (pp. 55-83)

    After what he saw as the failure of his abstruse philosophy to find any significant readership, Hume seems to have resolved to try to write in a more accessible style, and he published essays designed for a wide readership, on topics ranging from the freedom of the press and eloquence, to delicacy of taste and passion, from national character and the rise and progress of the arts and sciences to marriage and divorce. Some of these essays try to emulate Addison and Steele and to appeal to a female readership. He later withdrew these somewhat condescending essays as “frivolous” and...

  7. 4 HUME AS LIBRARIAN AND HISTORIAN
    (pp. 84-101)

    Once his brother married, Hume had moved, with his sister, from Ninewells to Edinburgh in 1751. They at first lived in Riddle’s Close, at the top of the Royal Mile, near where he had been born, and later moved to Jack’s Land. In 1752 he was appointed librarian to the Faculty of Advocates, so had “command of a large library. I then formed the plan of writing the History of England.” Letters written when he was accepting the post as secretary to General St Clair suggest that he had formed that plan considerably earlier and had thought that travel would...

  8. 5 HUME’S LIFE AS A MAN IN THE PUBLIC EYE
    (pp. 102-115)

    In 1763 Hume was invited by Lord Hertford to act as his secretary at the Paris embassy. At first Hume declined, “because I was reluctant to begin connections with the great, and because I was afraid the civilities and gay company of Paris, would prove disagreeable to a person of my age and humour.” He was 50 and seemed to think that an age to “retire to my native country of Scotland.” He had in fact expressed an intermittent wish to live in France and certainly seemed to enjoy his time there once Lord Hertford prevailed on him to accept...

  9. 6 HUME’S FINAL YEARS IN EDINBURGH
    (pp. 116-123)

    Despite his claimed detachment from life, Hume seemed to enjoy the last seven years of his life back in Edinburgh, with many friends with whom he found “gaiety in company.” His friends were, on the whole, not dour Scots but convivial men like his old army friend Edmonstoune, with whom he could enjoy an anti-religious joke, as well as moderate Presbyterians like Blair and Robertson, for whom Hume had done some favors when he was in London. Adam Smith, too, was a good friend, though he seemed to have feared that Hume’s views on religion, if he published his long-gestated...

  10. 7 DEATH AND CHARACTER
    (pp. 124-133)

    Hume gave us his famous funeral oration, putting himself in the past tense and taking pride in his character rather than in his writings (though he does allow that he was in some way “eminent”). He of course exaggerates when he says his friends never had to defend him against charges of bad character: those who defended him against the charges of infidelity and immorality in Edinburgh in 1755–1756 may have felt a little offended when they read these last claims. And he had regarded Rousseau’s claims about him as “calumnies” and had seemed touched by them. Quite a...

  11. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 134-144)

    I said at the start of this book that I wanted to share some of Hume’s wisdom with a wider range of readers than those who have studied his philosophy. I have summarized some of his views, but I have not said what I find wise in them. Since not all of Hume’s readers agree about what was wisdom and what was folly—in, for example, his essay on miracles, which was what raised the ire of A. E. Taylor and led him to ask whether Hume’s ingeniousness was not exceeded by his perversity; or his empiricist principle, which his...

  12. ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 147-150)
  13. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 151-154)
  14. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 155-156)
  15. NAME INDEX
    (pp. 157-160)
  16. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 161-165)