What did David Hume discover

Summary of An investigation into the human mind

The Scottish Enlightenment

In the 17th century, Scotland was still one of the poorest and most backward regions in Western Europe. However, the country had a long and rich educational tradition. Presbyterianism, a Scottish variant of Protestantism, placed great value on individual reading of the Bible and, with its schools and libraries, ensured a comparatively high literary education for the population - illiterate people were less common than elsewhere. Through the political union with England in 1707, Scotland gained free access to the markets of the British colonial empire and experienced an economic boom. Under these economically favorable conditions, the country and especially the capital Edinburgh developed into one of the most exciting intellectual centers in Europe in the second half of the 18th century. In the clubs and smoky back rooms of the numerous Edinburgh pubs, scientists, lawyers, agronomists, philosophers and artists regularly came together to foster a free exchange of ideas while eating and drinking together. Unlike the French Enlightenment, like that of a few leading figures Denis Diderot and Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert was mastered, it was not an exclusive circle with a uniform idea, but a rather loose association of intellectuals who represented quite different views and discussed these lively.

The most important representatives of the Scottish Enlightenment included its founder, the Glasgow professor of philosophy Francis Hutcheson, and David Hume characters as diverse as Adam Smith, James Boswell and James Watt. Despite all differences, they shared the conviction that it was possible to grasp the laws of nature through observation and to derive the principles of human behavior and social coexistence from them. Of Francis Bacon and the physicist Isaac Newton The Scottish Enlightenmentists took over the experimental method and applied it to moral philosophy. Her goal was to show people a way to happiness in this world and to help improve their living conditions. Neither the promises of religion nor sublime philosophical principles should determine everyday human coexistence, but concrete innovations in political and economic institutions, in schools and science, craft and trade. According to the Scottish Enlightenment, people should practice their religion calmly and believe in God, but rely on their own strength in everyday life.


David Hume had it when he was just under 30 Treatise on human nature written which was supposed to start his academic career, but to his disappointment it was a failure. The lack of journalistic response to the youth work published in 1739 - hastily in his view - was not attributed to Hume's content, but solely to stylistic and formal deficiencies. As he writes in his autobiography, he therefore started a new version of his considerations, which was published in 1748 under the title Philosophical experiments on the human mind and again in 1758 as An investigation into the human mind appeared. According to Hume, the examination the same philosophical principles as the three-volume treatise, but in a simplified, more accessible representation. In fact, however, he also made corrections to the content. For example, the chapter on believing in miracles was completely rewritten.

Impact history

The Inquiry into the human mind, who prefers Hume himself over the treatise and which he later declared to be the final presentation of his philosophy, finally aroused the public attention that had been denied to the first work. From 1750 onwards, numerous comments and criticisms appeared in England on the writing, which the Vatican put on the list of forbidden books along with Hume's other works in 1761. Many Scottish philosophy professors as well as church representatives attacked Hume sharply.

The exerted a decisive influence examination on the education in Germany. The work, which first appeared in German translation in 1755, was discussed in many Enlightenment magazines and was how Moses Mendelssohn wrote, in everyone's hands. Immanuel Kant even confessed that Hume's writing tore him from his "dogmatic slumber" and encouraged further investigation. In philosophical epistemology, Hume's criticism of the principle of causality continued into modern times and influenced the Vienna Circle as well as that of Karl Popper well-founded school of thought of critical rationalism.