David Hume: One of the Most Important Contributors to Western Philosophy

David Hume was born to a modest family in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1711. At the age of two, Hume’s father died and his mother was left to care for him and his brother and sister. At the age of twelve, Hume was sent to the University of Edinburgh, where he developed a passion for classics and spent the next three years studying philosophy and trying to create his own philosophical program.

His studies proved to be extraordinarily taxing on Hume, and it began to compromise his psychological health. After working for a short time as a clerk for a sugar importer, Hume finally recovered and moved to France to continue working on his own philosophical vision. Between 1734 and 1737, while living in La Flèche, France, Hume wrote one of his most impactful philosophical works, A Treatise of Human Nature. This work was later published in England as three books between 1739 and 1740, with Hume removing parts that would seem controversial for the time (such as his discussion of miracles).

Hume wanted to work in the British academic system. His Treatise was poorly received, however, and while his next two-volume compilation, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, was modestly successful, Hume’s reputation for being an atheist and skeptic ruined any chances of a career in education.