the Hume-nist Manifesto

via ALDaily, Julian Baggini makes an urgent plea at BBC Radio 4 that David Hume be crowned the greatest philosopher of all time:

The lessons he taught are desperately relevant today, when certainty is only found in religious fundamentalism, yet uncertainty risks a descent into postmodern relativism and intellectual anarchy. In this climate, how do we resolve ethical disputes such as those that rage over stem-cell research, euthanasia and civil liberties versus civic security? How can we trust science when it gets so many things wrong? How do we resolve the great ideological clashes of East and West when there are no unquestionable fundamentals upon which to build agreement? What we need is a Humean approach to provide the intellectual ballast necessary to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.

A quick and interesting (if not scholarly) read. But I'm struck by the subtle undercurrent which appears to be that Hume's philosophy might actually be implemented to solve major moral conflicts (e.g., radical Islam vs. the West, Christian tradition vs. gay marriage). Those who would seem to benefit from Hume's principles would never adopt them. They're contrary to the same belief systems which give rise to moral conflict.

It's much like the pacifist calling for an end to militarization without realizing that nothing will ever stop the other guys.

posted by Dennis on 07.08.05 at 03:33 PM


You're absolutely right that there are a number of philosphies that could provide resolution to war, poverty, injustice, and so on. And they'd work too. All they require is that all sides embrace them. But woe to the side that embraces it unilaterally.

It's a shame pacifists don't understand that. But I suppose they don't by definition--if they did, they wouldn't be pacifists.

byrd   ·  July 8, 2005 4:25 PM

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