David Hume at 300
Howard Darmstadter looks at the life and legacy of the incendiary tercentenarian.
In 1734, David Hume, a bookish 23-year-old Scotsman, abandoned conventional career options and went off to France to Think Things Over. Living frugally and devoting himself to study and writing, he returned after three years with a hefty manuscript under his arm. Published in three volumes in 1739 –40 as A Treatise of Human Nature, it attracted little attention. Reflecting on the event near the end of his life, Hume joked that it “fell still-born from the press.”
Hume soon rallied, going on to enjoy a long and successful career as an historian and political essayist (the accomplishments for which he was best known in his lifetime) and as an important contributor to the infant science of economics.