Nautilus

Why David Hume Is So Hot Right Now

David Chalmers, co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness at New York University, once undertook something odd for a philosopher: He conducted an international poll. In November 2009, he and his then-PhD advisee, David Bourget, asked over 2,500 of their colleagues—professors and graduate students alike—among other things, with which dead thinker they most identified.

The results, published in 2013, showed that philosophers’ favorite was, overwhelmingly, David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher infamous, and now famous, for being skeptical not just about the claims of religion, but also the existence of the self, a subject that’s still scientifically unsettled.

So it was with auspicious timing that James Harris—currently Head of Department and Reader in the History of Philosophy at the University of Saint Andrews, in Scotland—wrote Hume: An Intellectual Biography, published by Cambridge University Press in October of last year. It’s unprecedented. Harris calls it “the first comprehensive account of all of what Hume did

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