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David Hume
By Henry Calderwood (1898)


In the following pages I have attempted to compress into small compass an account of the life of one of the most illustrious Scotsmen of last century.

Notwithstanding Hume's vast ability and many services, his name has hitherto awakened the dislike of the majority of his fellow-countrymen, because of his openly avowed scepticism concerning views reverently cherished by Christian men.

At this date, however, we may claim to have reached the period when it is possible to survey the writings with more of the historic spirit, or at least, with that ' freedom from prejudice' for which Hume pleads; with enlarged views as to liberty of thought, and with perhaps greater indifference to the disturbing influence of the opinions so characteristic of the Historian.

The keen antagonism of the religious men of the time induced the country to regard Hume as an 'Infidel,' a 'Philistine,' and an 'Arch-Sceptic,' a good man who had gone astray. Now, when the enmity against him has in great measure become traditional, it seems possible to place him in a truer light, to shew that he is not an Infidel, that he scorns even the name of Deist, and that the man who himself challenged the evidence for belief in miracles maintains [Essays II., sec. x., p. 147] 'that the Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.'

So readers may be willing to consider afresh the scepticism and the religious faith; and they may even be able to find, in Hume, a witness for Christianity whose testimony is in some respects the more valuable since beset with so many and such grave doubts. Going further than this, it is probable that a renewed study of Hume's writings may lead us to a fairer interpretation of the attitude of those, in our own day, whose avowed doubts have induced earnest men to classify them amongst the irreligious.

[Note.—At the time of Professor Calderwood's death, the MS. for this volume was all but complete, and it has been printed as it was left by him.

Unfortunately, however, only a rough shorthand draft of the preface had been drawn up, and, while every effort has been made to convey the thoughts expressed, I am not certain that the wording is in strict accord with the author's intention. W.L.C.]

Edinburgh, February 1898.


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