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The Pursuits of Philosophy: An Introduction…
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The Pursuits of Philosophy: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of…

by Annette C. Baier

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Presumably this slim book has a pretty specialized audience. It is not an in-depth biography of the Scottish philosopher David Hume; rather, it's more of an extended commentary on Hume's autobiography, written shortly before his death, age 65, in 1776. It's characteristic of the book that, as best I can tell, it doesn't actually identify his death date; Baier's interest is in the relationship between Hume's life experiences and the evolution of his philosophical ideas. She also points out places where the autobiography departs from the other evidence of Hume's life as attested by his published writings and letters (for example, contradicting his claim that he never found 'reason to complain of calumny', when he clearly did).

Perhaps this is a good alternative to one of the longer, academic biographies for a reader who needs to know some but not too much about Hume, though it would be worth comparing this to the Oxford University Press 'Very Short Introduction to Hume', which I haven't read. What I valued most in this book is Baier's 10 page afterword, in which she shares what she finds most wise in Hume's philosophy: his focus on our animal natures as a starting point for thinking about society and ethics; his belief that all societies are flawed and idiosyncratic, but that it is worth tolerating local customs where possible, while promoting the rights of all through gradual reform; his understanding of the way cultural goods depend on economic factors; his conception of how humans think and feel, including the role of empathy; his interest in social convention and trust; and his 'true skepticism". For anyone interested in Hume or the Scottish Enlightenment generally, this afterword is worth searching the book out from a library or borrowing from a friend. ( )
  bezoar44 | Aug 17, 2015 |
Marking the tercentenary of David Hume's birth, Annette Baier has created an engaging guide to the philosophy of one of the greatest thinkers of Enlightenment Britain. Drawing deeply on a lifetime of scholarship and incisive commentary, she deftly weaves Hume’s autobiography together with his writings and correspondence, finding in these personal experiences new ways to illuminate his ideas about religion, human nature, and the social order.

Excerpts from Hume’s autobiography at the beginning of each chapter open a window onto the eighteenth-century context in which Hume’s philosophy developed. Famous in Christian Britain as a polymath and a nonbeliever, Hume recounts how his early encounters with clerical authority laid the foundation for his lifelong skepticism toward religion. In Scotland, where he grew up, he had been forced to study lists of sins in order to spot his own childish flaws, he reports. Later, as a young man, he witnessed the clergy’s punishment of a pregnant unmarried servant, and this led him to question the violent consequences of the Church’s emphasis on the doctrine of original sin. Baier’s clear interpretation of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature explains the link between Hume’s growing disillusionment and his belief that ethics should be based on investigations of human nature, not on religious dogma.

Four months before he died, Hume concluded his autobiography with a eulogy he wrote for his own funeral. It makes no mention of his flaws, critics, or disappointments. Baier’s more realistic account rivets our attention on connections between the way Hume lived and the way he thought—insights unavailable to Hume himself, perhaps, despite his lifelong introspection.
  SalemAthenaeum | Nov 10, 2011 |
A serviceable little book introducing the work of David Hume, maybe just a little too little, especially several pages are taken up with Hume's own account of his life. I am still not quite sure how to approach reading Hume--the Treatise sounds a little intimidating. ( )
  Darrol | Oct 9, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674061683, Hardcover)

Marking the tercentenary of David Hume's birth, Annette Baier has created an engaging guide to the philosophy of one of the greatest thinkers of Enlightenment Britain. Drawing deeply on a lifetime of scholarship and incisive commentary, she deftly weaves Hume’s autobiography together with his writings and correspondence, finding in these personal experiences new ways to illuminate his ideas about religion, human nature, and the social order.

Excerpts from Hume’s autobiography at the beginning of each chapter open a window onto the eighteenth-century context in which Hume’s philosophy developed. Famous in Christian Britain as a polymath and a nonbeliever, Hume recounts how his early encounters with clerical authority laid the foundation for his lifelong skepticism toward religion. In Scotland, where he grew up, he had been forced to study lists of sins in order to spot his own childish flaws, he reports. Later, as a young man, he witnessed the clergy’s punishment of a pregnant unmarried servant, and this led him to question the violent consequences of the Church’s emphasis on the doctrine of original sin. Baier’s clear interpretation of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature explains the link between Hume’s growing disillusionment and his belief that ethics should be based on investigations of human nature, not on religious dogma.

Four months before he died, Hume concluded his autobiography with a eulogy he wrote for his own funeral. It makes no mention of his flaws, critics, or disappointments. Baier’s more realistic account rivets our attention on connections between the way Hume lived and the way he thought—insights unavailable to Hume himself, perhaps, despite his lifelong introspection.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

Annette Baier has created an engaging guide to the philosophy of one of the greatest thinkers of Enlightenment Britain. Drawing deeply on a lifetime of scholarship and incisive commentary, she deftly weaves Hume's autobiography together with his writings and correspondence, finding in these personal experiences new ways to illuminate his ideas about religion, human nature, and the social order.… (more)

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