The Cambridge Companion to Hume (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)

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9780521387101: The Cambridge Companion to Hume (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)

David Hume is, arguably, the most important philosopher ever to have written in English. Although best known for his contributions to epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion, Hume also made substantial and influential contributions to psychology and the philosophy of mind, ethics, the philosophy of science, political and economic theory, political and social history, and to a lesser extent, aesthetic and literary theory. All facets of Hume's output are discussed in this volume, the first genuinely comprehensive overview of his work. The picture that emerges is of a thinker, who, though critical to the point of skepticism, was nonetheless able to build on that skepticism a profoundly important, and still viable, constructive philosophy.

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Review:

David Hume's mother reportedly lamented, "Our Davie is a fine good-natured critter, but uncommon weak-minded." Perhaps she would have been comforted to know that today her son is widely considered to be the most important philosopher ever to have written in the English language. The Companion's 11 essays take the reader from Hume's precocious Treatise of Human Nature--published in 1739, when he was only 28--to the posthumously published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and cover not only the subjects central to Hume's philosophy but also his views on politics, economics, literary and aesthetic theory, and even history. As David Wootton's essay observes, the British Library catalog identifies Hume as "the historian"--"to the puzzlement," Wootton quips, "of generations of philosophers." Also included are Hume's two short autobiographies, written in his own inimitable style: he describes the unexcited reaction to his Treatise by saying that "it fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots."

The contributors to the Companion are among the most respected contemporary Hume scholars; their essays are uniformly clear and accessible. Robert J. Fogelin's article on Hume's skepticism, Knud Haakonssen's article on Hume's political theory, and J.C.A. Gaskin's article on Hume's philosophy of religion are particularly worthwhile, as is the substantial bibliography. Although the Companion is not aimed at the specialist, neither is it for the philosophical novice--still, anyone interested in Hume's life and work would benefit from perusing it. --Glenn Branch

Book Description:

Although he was best known for his contributions to epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion, Hume also made substantial and influential contributions to many other disciplines. This first comprehensive overview of his work reveals the full scope of his creativity.

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