David Hume, Part I

I think E and I agreed that we'd do a series here on various scholars. I was supposed to start off with David Hume.

Why Hume, you ask? Because earlier this year, I spent a memorable and highly enjoyable day traipsing about Edinburgh and finding Hume at the Edinburgh Uni, on the various shop in and around the Royal Mile and having a picture taken with him outside the old Scottish Parliament building. Well, yes, we know he's dead but he's fairly popular in that city. Though, the Hume statue (yes, the pics are all from Google. I never figured out how to get the photos off my camera) could do with a bit of cover-up since Edinburgh is rather chilly for him to be standing out in the cold partially naked.

I did realise though that we should have started off with someone obscure and not-very-prolific in terms of writing. Do yous know how much Hume has written? Well, the answer's heaps. He's written heaps. He has not only written loads of stuff but has also contradicted himself often and is rather difficult to read. Especially if, like me, you're not too keen on Old English (well, Old Scots, perhaps) . So, who knows if and when the Hume post will actually happen.

In the meantime, here's a few things I've found out so far. I'm avoiding the issue of what he said for now since that needs more contemplation. Or as much contemplation as I can afford to give Hume in between bouts of trying to finish an article and working on my never-ending PhD proposal.

Overall, Hume sounds like a right nice bloke.

I think those of us who have watched MP already knew that Hume was a good eater. He could out consume Schopenhauer and Hegel after all (though no mention is made in the song about S and H's eating capacities). On his appearance, the Earl of Charlemont said of Hume,

"His face was broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility. His eyes vacant and spiritless; and the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman than of a refined philosopher."

So, not like Witty then. Or even SuperN. I presume that calling someone a "turtle-eating alderman" was an insult in those days though it seems fairly posh to me. Normal folk don't eat turtles nowadays.

Hume also had a broad Scottish accent (fairly uncommon since most learned Scotspeople would sound like learned Englishpeople). Despite years spent living and writing in France, his French was also terrible. This gives hope to people like me who, despite studying IR, can't actually speak many useful languages. The market for Nepali/Sanskrit/some Thai-speaking academics is very limited.

But, Hume was well aware of the important aspects of life. He ate well, had good relations with his friends and family and realised there was no point in whingeing about lack of money (he was fired from quite a few jobs and didn't get some academic posts because of his philosophical stance), or not having a job but he (in his own words) "felt an insurmountable aversion to everything but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning". In those days, it was possible to pursue philosophy and general learning and yet manage to live a comfortable life doing so. I'm not sure that is possible these days though academia is probably where you'd go about doing such things.

Best of all, when his first book was published, he wrote a favourable review for it and published it anonymously. I'm definitely planning on doing that if I ever get a book out.

I guess that's about it for now. Wait for Part II to read what he wrote about. Did I mention his works are rather difficult to read? I need the Reduced version of Hume. Or Hume in Two and a Half Chapters.


At 12/06/2005 11:07 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Or Hume flashcards, perhaps?


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