Famous Scots
- David Hume (1711-1776)

David Hume

Born in Edinburgh into a Calvinist family in 1711, Hume entered Edinburgh University at the age of 12 to study law, leaving less than three years later, having concentrated more on his own interests than his course work.

After a brief business career in Bristol, he moved to France and took up writing. His development of philosophical ideas had been influenced by the concepts of science and observation. His first major book "A Treatise of Human Nature" in 1739 was not an immediate success and he returned to Scotland as a companion to the Marquis of Annandale in the Borders.

His next book "Essays, Moral and Political" in 1741 was more successful. Hume proclaimed the dominance of human reason over religious faith and, at a time when religious dogma was followed by most people without question, he was a self-proclaimed atheist. He was thus not able to become professor of philosophy at Edinburgh University because of his "anti-religious" views.

Mixing a diplomatic career in France with further writing, his "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" had an influence on Adam Smith. While in Paris (as Secretary to the British Embassy from 1763-66) he became popular with French society and helped the writer Rousseau. Hume returned to Edinburgh in 1769 and mixed with the intellectuals of the capital during the phase described as "The Scottish Enlightenment". His associates included the economist Adam Smith, the portraitist and essayist Allan Ramsay and the historian William Robertson.

In addition to writing books on philosophy which have influenced thinking to this day, Hume also wrote a number of books of history, including works on the reigns of King James VI and Charles I and also a "Natural History of Religion".

A recent poll of academics voted Hume as the Scot who had made the greatest impact on Scotland in the last 1,000 years.

The illustration is of a statue to David Hume on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

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