Skepticism & the Pursuit of Happiness

“There’s more to the truth than just the facts.” ~Author Unknown

Photo by the author.

Tonight our philosophy club is meeting again, this time to discuss David Hume. Hume, 1711–1776, is considered by many to be the most influential philosopher in the English language so it is worthwhile to see where he was coming from and why he’s been crowned with this designation.

The chubby Hume was a prominent figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. Since one of his closest friends was Adam Smith, who’s Wealth of Nations shaped the credo and foundation of modern capitalism and economics, you might say that if the ideas of Hume and Smith bled into one another at all, we’ve been stained by them whether we’re aware of it or not.

The structure of our philosophy club was like this. Once a month, usually the first Friday, we’d get together at seven and share an orchestrated pot luck meal, catch up on personal life happenings, and then move to the living room to listen to a lecture from The Teaching Company.

The lecture series we’d been working through was called The Great Ideas of Philosophy, taught by Dr. Daniel N. Robinson of Georgetown University. The series began with pre-Socratic Greeks, sailing the high seas of philosophical inquiry from the semi-shrouded past to this night’s theme: Skepticism and the Pursuit of Happiness.

After each lecture we have a discussion designed to draw out some of the ideas Professor Robinson has touched on. Our aim is to get us thinking about how these things apply to our lives today. It’s generally good fun and a great way to spend an evening with friends.

Here are a few of my notes and discussion questions.

1739 wrote A Treatise on Human Nature….
1750s wrote his more mature works

Hume’s initial aim was to Defeat Skepticism. Naturalism, not transcendence, was his key point of view. What is the difference between Theism, Deism and Naturalism?

Morality comes from our Nature, not from outside our human nature. Philosophy is not outside the human condition, according to Hume. It is an expression of the human condition.

Influenced by Berkeley and Locke. Perception and impressions make representations of the external world… We always have a mediated knowledge of the external world, not an immediate knowledge. What is significant about this?

Hume asks how we come up with the idea of causation. Causation seems self-evident. Why would anyone question this? How do we respond when we encounter ideas that contradict what appears self-evident to us? Where does the idea or concept of causation come from?

“Passion rules Reason, as it should,” says Hume. What does he mean by this and why was it important to him?

Hume was a Utilitarian. Our stance, in his view, is a stoic resignation to the limits of human knowledge.

Looks like a lot of good food for discussion. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Originally published at on February 15, 2019.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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