Sep 192017
 

James CourtJames’ Court 493 Lawnmarket Edinburgh EH1 2PB

The buildings at the back of Gladstone’s Land date from the 16th century and give a feel of the crowded Old Town of the 18th century. Before the New Town was built, Edinburgh was enclosed by a wall on top of the long ridge of volcanic rock down which runs the Royal Mile. Due to the lack of space, the city was built up instead of out, some tenements rising to 10 stories or more. The rich had rooms at the top of these builidings while the poor lived on the lower floors. James Court was opened out in 1725 to give more space. It was here in 1762 that the philosopher David Hume came to live, having been born across the road in Riddle’s Court in 1711.

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Sep 192017
 

Statue of David HumeThe Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 1RN

David Hume (1711–76), incongruously portrayed in this statue as an ancient Greek philosopher rather than a mid-eighteenth-century man of letters, is perhaps the best known figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. In the eighteenth century Edinburgh witnessed an unprecedented flowering of science, literature and philosophy. Hume was a contemporary of Adam Smith (1723–90), the great political economist, Adam Ferguson (1721–1816), the social theorist, Joseph Black (1727–99), the pioneering chemist and James Hutton (1726–97), the geologist. These figures all knew each other and socialised together in the convivial atmosphere of Edinburgh’s many clubs and hostelries. Together they helped develop many of the ideas and theories that made the modern world.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

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Sep 082017
 

Tomb of David HumeOld Calton Burial Ground, 27 Waterloo Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3BQ

David Hume’s two key works, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40) and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), are still studied by students of philosophy today. Although he is now best known as a philosopher, in his own day he was equally famous as a historian. While his genius was universally acknowledged, his sceptical philosophy was extremely controversial and led to him being passed over for professorships at the Universities of both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Instead he found a job as librarian at the Faculty of Advocates. His Essays on Natural Religion were so provocative that he never dared publish them in his lifetime.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

Portrait of David Hume (1711–1776) by Allan Ramsay.

Inscription on the tomb of David Hume.

Inscription on the tomb of David Hume.

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The University of Edinburgh, Philosophy – David Hume

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – David Hume

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