Hume’s Goal

Toward the end of his life, Hume left the manu- script for his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion with his friend, the famous economist Adam Smith, with the understanding that Smith would arrange for its publication. However, when Hume died in 1776, Smith, perhaps fearing reprisal against himself, advised against the publication of the book. It did not appear until 1779 and then without the pub- lisher’s name (Steinberg, 1977).


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Hume’s Goal. According to Hume, “It is evident, that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature; and that, however wide any of them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one passage or another” (Flew, 1962). Under the heading of science, Hume included such top- ics as mathematics, natural philosophy (physical sci- ence), religion, logic, morals, criticism, and politics. In other words, as with Locke before, it was seen that all important matters reflect human nature, and understanding that nature is therefore essential. In developing his science of man, Hume followed in the empirical tradition of Occam, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, and Berkeley: “As the science of man is the only solid foundation for the other sciences, so, the only solid foundation we can give to this science itself must be laid on experience and observation” (Flew, 1962).

because it showed how all complex perceptions could be understood as compounds of elemen- tary sensations such as sight, hearing, and touch. Atherton (1990) provides a more detailed account of Berkeley’s theory of perception and a justification for referring to it as revolutionary.

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