OpenLearn Scotland
OpenLearn Scotland

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OpenLearn Scotland

4.5 David Hume

This course examines David 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, they examine some of the shifts in attitude concerning death and religious belief which were taking place in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, through examination of this and other short essays.

Hume was a pivotal figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and his death in 1776 was widely anticipated. He is best known today as a historian (through his History of England of 1754–62) and a philosopher. Hume's Treatise of Human Nature is regarded by many as one of the most significant philosophical works to have been written in English.

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  • David Hume [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (16 study hours)

Learning outcomes

Having studied this course, you should gain:

  • familiarity with debates in the late Enlightenment concerning suicide, immortality, the nature of evidence, the existence of God and related topics, plus some experience of participating in these debates;

  • acquaintance with some characteristic shifts and continuities in the move from Enlightenment ideals towards Romantic ones, including the new respect for sentiment; the increased emphasis on individualism, privacy and personal response; new conceptions of nature, including human nature; the continuing fascination with non-European cultures;

  • confidence that study can transform a centuries-old text into an enjoyable, informative, articulate and reasoned discussion of a familiar topic, even if at first that text seems obscure or arcane;

  • direct experience of this transformative process through careful examination of the set readings and appreciation of some necessary background information.



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