What historical figure do you wish you could speak to and why?

If I could meet someone from history I would like to meet David Hume. David Hume is my favorite philosopher and I consider him one of the most insightful people in history. I think all good modern philosophy has descended from Hume’s work.

David Hume was born in Scotland in 1711 and was one of the members of the Scottish Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an era in European history where the society changed very rapidly and many new ideas were introduced. These ideas included things like democracy, capitalism, and modern science. The Scottish Enlightenment included such thinkers as Adam Smith and Robert Burns.

David Hume wrote books on many different topics including morality, history, economics, religion and empiricism. His book on empiricism, “A Treatise of Human Nature” is his most famous work. Empiricism is the belief that all knowledge comes from the senses. Empiricism had a big effect on philosophy and also had a big effect on the modern scientific method. “A Treatise of Human Nature” is one of the most important philosophical books in history.

Hume would be interesting to talk to for several reasons. The first is that everything I have read about him is that he was very friendly. He was calm and was very intelligent but he was not pretentious. Many other thinkers at the time had a good opinion of him. I think it might be really easy to talk to him about his ideas and ask him his opinions on different topics.

The second reason is that he knew many of the Enlightenment thinkers and I could ask him about them. He was a good friend of Adam Smith who is called “The father of capitalism”. He traveled to France, the main country of the Enlightenment. He met many famous French Enlightenment thinkers such as Diderot and Rousseau, although later he had a falling-out with Rousseau. These are some of the most important thinkers in European history and it would be great to hear about them.

A third reason is that I would like to ask him about some of his secret beliefs. One of his books, “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”, was published after his death. It contained many controversial things about religion. In the 18th Century, it was very dangerous to criticize religion or the church. If you wrote a book with atheist or agnostic views you could lose your job or even be killed.

When Hume wrote “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”, he wrote it in a way that made it difficult to understand what his own view was. He wrote the book as a dialogue between several characters. Some of the characters defend religious beliefs while others attack them. This is so people don’t know if Hume agrees or disagrees with the religious beliefs. Many people think that Hume was secretly critical of religion but we don’t know for sure. If I met Hume I would like to ask him what his real opinion was.

Meeting David Hume would be an amazing opportunity and I hope they invent time travel so I can go back in time and meet him. I could learn so much about his philosophy, history, and other Enlightenment thinkers.

Nathaniel




Vocabulary

insightful (adjective) – showing a clear and deep understanding of a complicated situation
philosophy (noun) – the study of, or a particular set of beliefs about, the nature of reality and existence, knowledge, and what behavior is right and wrong
pretentious (adjective) – referring to yourself or acting in a way that exaggerates your importance, worth or value
falling-out (noun) – a quarrel or disagreement
atheist (noun) – a person who believes that God does not exist
agnostic (noun) – a person who believes that it is not possible to know whether or not God exists

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