hume: a fire hose in paradise

Our tradition of the Enlightenment. Secularism and at least partly a sectarian quarrel with religion. They could never fairly assess the contours of Christian thought, art and humanitarianism and in so doing opened the door to the counter Enlightenment which led down the slippery slope to the likes of Heidegger and other bastard offspring. The liberal, rational, humanitarian way of thought has been hegemonic now, seemingly as mundane and banal as a Marcel Duchamp ready-made. But is it possible it is no longer “relevant” ?…

When David Hume came to Paris in 1763, the philosophes, enlightened noblemen, and fashionable hostesses all rushed to acclaim him. From his estate in Ferney, Voltaire greeted Hume as “my St. David, ” while in Paris Mme d’Epinay reported that “no feast is complete without him.” Even Mme Pompadour fluttered around the fifty-two year old Scottish philosopher whose youthful Treatise of Human Nature had borne the subtitle Being an Attempt to Apply the Experimental Method of Reasoning to Moral Subjects and whose “Natural History of Religion” had sabotaged revealed religion by quietly treating it as a mere phenomenon.

Peter Howson. Land of Zapene. ----Hume is widely considered the greatest English philosopher and one of the principal architects of the Enlightenment. As a naturalist, he sought to explain the mind of man from a rationalist perspective. He strenuously attacked superstition, religion and anything else he regarded as a “prepackaged” authority system. He attacked even basic assumptions such as the relationship between cause and effect. He bridged the negative French philosophy of skepticism, with its roots in the teachings of René Descartes (1596-1650), and the new English philosophy of logical positivism, providing an optimism for the scientific and technical revolution that followed. ... Hume himself recoiled at the thought of the Bible being a source of moral authority and absolute truth. Though Hume's philosophy has fueled reformers who have endeavored to rid mankind of mental, physical and spiritual slavery, it has in fact stripped hope from many who have concluded that mankind is indeed limited and in desperate need of moral guidance.---Read More: image:

Yet the Paris philosophes failed to see that they were clutching a dangerous genius to their bosom. For the enlightened philosophy of Hume subverted the Enlightenment. The philosophes believed in scientific law; Hume’s analysis demolished the traditional concept of cause and effect. The philosophes believed that god the creator could be deduced from the creation; Hume demolished that deist argument as well. The philosophes looked for a morality based on reason; Hume showed that morality derives from the passions. Himself an easygoing worldling, Hume left the structure of human thought far shakier than any philosophe imagined it could be.

Eric Fischl art. ---Slavoj Zizek:During the Seventh Crusade, led by St. Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked why she carried the two bowls, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them: "Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God." Today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence. Read More: image:


Examine the religious principles which have, in fact, prevailed in the world, and you will scarcely be persuaded that they are anything but sick men’s dreams. – David Hume

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