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David Hume, philosopher, historian, economist, librarian, and essayist, was one of the great figures of the European Enlightenment. Unlike some of his famous contemporaries, however, he was not dogmatically committed to idealized conceptions of reason, liberty, and progress. Instead, Hume was a skeptic whose arguments questioned the reach and authority of human rationality, and who put the rivalrous passions of commercial life at the center of his theory of human nature. He believed that the modern world was in many ways superior to the ancient world, but was acutely conscious of the threats to peace and progress posed by bigotry, factionalism, and imperialism. Today Hume's works continue to speak to us powerfully in an age of instability and uncertainty.
This Very Short Introduction presents a balanced account of Hume's thought, giving equal attention to his work on human nature, morality, politics, and religion. Weaving together biography, the historical context, and a thoughtful exposition of Hume's arguments, James A. Harris offers a compelling picture of a thinker who had no disciples and formed no school, but whom no one in his own time was able to ignore, and who has since become central to modern philosophy's understanding of itself.