David Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711, attended the University from 1723, and died in Edinburgh in 1776, having achieved worldwide fame as an historian and philosopher.
He and his associates were at the heart of the intellectual, literary and cultural events that are now known as the Scottish Enlightenment.
Although Hume wrote in the 18th century, his works continue to be relevant to the philosophical disputes of the 21st century and a wide range of current public concerns.
He is generally recognised as the greatest philosopher ever to write in English and today his work is studied by scholars from all over the world.
Hume’s 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 David Hume 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, for example, that religion is not the key to understanding the universe, instead that religion itself is a reflection of human psychology.
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.
This article was published on Jan 20, 2011