'History of England' (6-Volume Set)
By David Hume (Author)
David Hume's great, enduring reputation in philosophy tends to obscure the fact that, among his contemporaries, his History of England was a more successful work. The History covers almost 1800 years. Hume saw English history as an evolution from a government of will to a government of law. Advanced in Hume's masterly prose, this argument continues to make the History a valuable study for the modern reader.
This Liberty Fund edition is based on the edition of 1778, the last to contain corrections by Hume. The typography has been modernized for ease of reading. Hume's own index to the entire work may be found at the conclusion of volume VI.
William B. Todd is The Mildred Caldwell and Baine Perkins Kerr Centennial Professor Emeritus in English History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin.
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 experience 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.