One major fault in our study of modern philosophy and its origins is that all too often, we leave out the marking factors that caused some of the most recognized names in philosophy to develop their perspectives on life. These perspectives, of course, were often what led to the deeper insights and new approaches that these early modern philosophers are known for today. This would be like leaving the front auto plate off of a car. You might not see why it's there until you try to leave it out. Having a grasp of what events and people shaped the lives and planted the seeds of new opinion in these individuals can therefore provide a greater understanding of the more complex ideas that they would formulate, and later become famous for. In this article, we will present a brief biography of one of the most important early modern philosophers, David Hume.
David Hume was born David Home on April 26, 1711 in the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Although born in a modest tenement, David and his family did own some lands in Berwickshire, which lay on the border between Scotland and England. It's about the same distance as Toronto is for those now looking at Georgetown Ontario homes for sale. The English influence that this proximity brought into Hume's life was to have an impact in both great ways and small; for one thing, he changed his family name from "Home" to "Hume", an easier pronunciation for his English neighbors.
When Hume was just over two years old his father, who had worked as an advocate, died. This left Hume's mother, Katherine Lady Falconer, to raise David and his older brother and sister on her own. Hume has affirmed that she did so to the best of her ability in his autobiography.
In fact, it was Hume's mother who first recognized her son's potential, describing him as a very precocious child. Because she felt his talents were being wasted in the rural countryside setting of Ninewells, she sent David off to Edinburgh University with his older brother at the age of twelve. While it seems today that this is a young age to be set out into the world, it would have been similar to a genius teenager being sent from a country home to a Mississauga condo to pursue further education.
Education and careers
Hume's university career took on a very wide range of topics, from history to mathematics, philosophy to science and literature. In fact, this educational background provides some explanation as to why Hume was first known for his histories rather than his philosophy.
While history may have been his first claim to fame it seems evident that philosophy was always Hume's first love. In his autobiography, Hume claims that he decided in university that he wished to be a Scholar and Philosopher, and began a training regime that reflected this goal; in fact, the three year program of reading and reflection which he put onto himself led to a near nervous breakdown, although he did credit the intense workout for opening up New Thought to him. While today you won't find many job postings in an average town like Port Perry real estate, in Hume's time it was a prestigious field of study for students.
After this program, Hume decided that in order to fully develop his ideas, it was important to expand his experiences. Today, this is scene in young people leaving behind their sheltered Brampton Ontario real estate to travel the world. At first he attempted to do so by working as a clerk, but soon found the occupation too onerous. Instead, he moved to France and began formulating his own thoughts on philosophy through reading of French works and debates with Jesuits.
Hume's career in philosophy continued from the publication of A Treatise on Human Nature, which he wrote in France, to his death in 1776.