This free course, David Hume, examines Hume's reasons for being complacent in the face of death, as these are laid out in his suppressed essay of 1755, 'Of the immortality of the soul'. More generally, it examines some of the shifts in attitude concerning death and religious belief that were taking place in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, through examination of this and other short essays.
Course learning outcomes
After studying this course, you should be able to:
understand the debates in the late Enlightenment concerning suicide, immortality, the nature of evidence, the existence of God and related topics
understand some characteristic shifts and continuities in the move from Enlightenment ideals towards Romantic ones
feel confident that study can transform a centuries-old text into an enjoyable, informative, articulate and reasoned discussion of a familiar topic
examine set readings and appreciate some of its necessary background information.
For those unfamiliar with reading philosophy, both Hume and this course are very accessble. I'd particularly recommend the course to anyone even thinking of studying philosophy because it is great preparation for learning how to read philosophical texts. The instructor's approach also mitigates the intimidation one often feels reading philosophy for the first time, encouraging her engagement with the material. Although the course is geared toward newbies, for those already familiar with Philosophy, it is still very enriching. Why? This course is more comprehensive in terms of the cultural and historical context, as well the critical discourse by Hume's contemporaries concerning these two controversial essays, than you will find in your average undergrad Phil class. The subject matter is as pertinent today as ever, such as regarding the legalization, and debates surrounding the legalization, of euthanasia occuring in some countries. The course is not about euthanasia, but topic comes to mind as an example of the relevance of Hume's essays to contemporary issues. And, most of the Earth's population still subscribes to some faith or other, and, often with that faith, some conception of an afterlife. These discussions are still going on and have a real impact on people's lives.
Well done! Thank you. I'd always love to see more Hume and have the luxury of time to read and reread his works.