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Dussinger, J.A. (1980). David Hume's Denial of Personal Identity: The Making of a Skeptic. Am. Imago, 37(3):334-350.
(1980). American Imago, 37(3):334-350
David Hume's Denial of Personal Identity: The Making of a Skeptic
John A. Dussinger
David Hume, who systematized skepticism as a philosophy, was the younger son of a Scottish laird, and raised by a sternly Calvinistic mother, who was widowed while he was an infant. His childhood is obscure but was apparently spent at Ninewells under his mother's management until 1721 when he entered, together with his brother, the University of Edinburgh. Having left without a degree in 1724, he attempted law studies but spent most of these three or four years in Edinburgh studying such authors as Cicero, Virgil, Bacon, Milton, Newton, Locke, Clarke, and Bayle, returning to his country home at last to be idle and causing his mother, according to one tradition, to remark despairingly: “Our Davie is a fine good-natured crater, but uncommon wake-minded.”
During the early years of adolescence (1725-29), David went through a profound mental and physical change. By his own account, he gave up his Presbyterian beliefs after reading Locke and Clarke, and sequestered himself to indulge in radical speculation. In September 1729, he fell into a severe state of depression and suffered minor physical disabilities. In the spring of 1734, he decided to become a Man of Letters and went to France to write his monument to skepticism—the Treatise of Human Nature, published in 1739. He gradually made the acquaintance of such Scottish luminaries as Lord Kames, Adam Smith, and Francis Hutcheson.
Although embittered by the little interest aroused by the Treatise, Hume enjoyed acclaim for his Essays Moral and Political (1741-2).
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