Philosopher, historian, author of 'A Treatise of Human Nature', alumnus of the University.
David Hume was born on 22 April 1711.
His father died when he was two years old, and he was brought up by his mother, who came from a family of lawyers.
At the age of 12 he was offered a place at the University (students began their studies far earlier in the 1700s).
When he left a few years later, he was encouraged to pursue a career in law.
Independent-minded and highly intelligent, Hume decided instead to set about planning his own education, realising that his strengths lay in more philosophical directions.
In his own words, he had "an insurmountable aversion to everything but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning".
Unfortunately, this insurmountable aversion pushed him too hard. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1729 and it took some years for him to recover.
Over the following decades one focus of Hume’s work was formulating arguments against superstition.
An atheist and unmitigated skeptic, his ideas were not popular with religious leaders; he argued that religion is a reflection of human psychology rather than the key to understanding the universe.
In time, Hume’s ideas established him as one of the great philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment.
The publication for which he is best known was his first major work, ‘A Treatise of Human Nature’, which he produced between 1739 and 1740.
The ‘Treatise’ was not well received at the time (Hume commented that it "fell dead-born from the press"), but it has since been argued to be one of the most important books in the history of philosophy.
Hume's plaque is on the west facade of the David Hume Tower.
This article was published on Jul 14, 2008