The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought

Princeton University Press
Free sample

The story of the greatest of all philosophical friendships—and how it influenced modern thought

David Hume is widely regarded as the most important philosopher ever to write in English, but during his lifetime he was attacked as “the Great Infidel” for his skeptical religious views and deemed unfit to teach the young. In contrast, Adam Smith was a revered professor of moral philosophy, and is now often hailed as the founding father of capitalism. Remarkably, the two were best friends for most of their adult lives, sharing what Dennis Rasmussen calls the greatest of all philosophical friendships. The Infidel and the Professor is the first book to tell the fascinating story of the friendship of these towering Enlightenment thinkers—and how it influenced their world-changing ideas.

The book follows Hume and Smith’s relationship from their first meeting in 1749 until Hume’s death in 1776. It describes how they commented on each other’s writings, supported each other’s careers and literary ambitions, and advised each other on personal matters, most notably after Hume’s quarrel with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Members of a vibrant intellectual scene in Enlightenment Scotland, Hume and Smith made many of the same friends (and enemies), joined the same clubs, and were interested in many of the same subjects well beyond philosophy and economics—from psychology and history to politics and Britain’s conflict with the American colonies. The book reveals that Smith’s private religious views were considerably closer to Hume’s public ones than is usually believed. It also shows that Hume contributed more to economics—and Smith contributed more to philosophy—than is generally recognized.

Vividly written, The Infidel and the Professor is a compelling account of a great friendship that had great consequences for modern thought.

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About the author

Dennis C. Rasmussen is associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His books include The Pragmatic Enlightenment. He lives in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 28, 2017
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781400888467
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Philosophers
Business & Economics / Economic History
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Modern
Philosophy / Political
Philosophy / Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Internalism in philosophy of mind is the thesis that all conditions that constitute a person's current thoughts and sensations, with their characteristic contents, are internal to that person's skin and contemporaneous. Externalism is the denial of internalism, and is now broadly popular. Joseph Mendola argues that internalism is true, and that there are no good arguments that support externalism. Anti-Externalism has three parts. Part I examines famous case-based arguments for externalism due to Kripke, Putnam, and Burge, and develops a unified internalist response incorporating rigidified description clusters. It argues that this proposal's only real difficulties are shared by all viable externalist treatments of both Frege's Hesperus-Phosphorus problem and Russell's problem of empty names, so that these difficulties cannot be decisive. Part II critically examines theoretical motivations for externalism entwined with causal accounts of perceptual content, as refined by Dretske, Fodor, Millikan, Papineau, and others, as well as motivations entwined with disjunctivism and the view that knowledge is the basic mental state. It argues that such accounts are false or do not provide proper motivation for externalism, and develops an internalist but physicalist account of sensory content involving intentional qualia. Part III critically examines theoretical motivations for externalism entwined with externalist accounts of language, including work of Brandom, Davidson, and Wittgenstein. It dialectically develops an internalist account of thoughts mediated by language that can bridge the internally constituted qualia of Part II and the rigidified description clusters of Part I.
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