'Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary'
By David Hume (Author)
As part of the tried and true model of informal essay writing, Hume began publishing his Essays: Moral, Political and Literary in 1741. The majority of these finely honed treatises fall into three distinct areas: political theory, economic theory and aesthetic theory.Interestingly, Hume's was motivated to produce a collection of informal essays given the poor public reception of his more formally written Treatise of Human Nature in 1739. He hoped that his work would be interesting not only to the educated man, but to the common man as well. He passionately argues that essays provide a forum for discussing his philosophy of "common life.
One of the most influential British philosophers, the Scot, David Hume was at once historian, economist and philosopher and was known for both his skepticism and empiricism. As one of the main figures of the school of empiricism in England, Hume restricted knowledge to experi- ence of ideas and impressions whose ultimate source cannot be verified. His early years were spent in Edinburgh, but like Locke, he journeyed later in life to France where he wrote one of his most famous works, A Treatise on Human Nature, expounding a full philosophical system which, however, he later repudiated as being a work of youth. He returned to England and in 1741 and 1742 wrote essays on moral and political philosophy and soon thereafter his most famous works, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principle of Morals. He also wrote a history of England and carried out disputes with Rousseau.
Hume is known in the later history of philosophy for his radical denial of the possibility of any deductive science and also of causality. He claimed, somewhat like the Ash'arite theologians in Islam, that the impression upon the mind of one event followed by another event gives rise to the idea of causality. However, in contrast to the Ash'arites who saw the Will of Allah as the bond which relates what appears to us as cause and effect, Hume did not believe in any relationship between what we call cause and what we call effect except habitual association in the mind which we identify as causality. He claimed that causality is simply based on belief and cannot be proven by either empirical observation or reason.
The influence of Hume was primarily on those who claimed that philosophy is an inductive science of human nature and that man is created of sensitive and practical sentiments rather than reason. It was this aspect of Hume's thought that would influence Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill as well as other British philosophers such as the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. In the last few decades, Hume has been highly praised in Anglo-Saxon philosophy by the positivists who appreciate his anti-metaphysical position and his refutation of all deductive philosophy.