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How David Hume Became the First Modern Humanist
Conway Hall
London United Kingdom
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How David Hume Became the First Modern Humanist
David Hume was one of our greatest philosophers. When he was growing up, the dominant ethical debate in Britain was between the pessimists, who believed we are all fundamentally selfish, and the optimists, who vehemently denied this. The latter were all devout Christians, and so for those sceptical of orthodox religion (like the young Hume), the only credible view was the pessimistic one. After publishing his first book, however, Hume had an epiphanyprompted by, of all things, the sermons of an English clergymanand was persuaded of the optimistic alternative. He then had the profoundly important realisation that this view is consistent with scepticism about religion. This talk will tell the story of this hugely significant moment in the history of ideas.

Amyas Merivale, winner of Conway Halls Blackham Fellowship award, is a lecturer and outreach officer in Philosophy and Computer Science at the University of Oxford. He took a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford, and the BPhil in Philosophy, before moving to Leeds for his PhD. His doctoral thesis, on Humes philosophy of emotion, ethics, and religion, was awarded a commendation of research excellence by its examiners. He has reworked this research into a book, which will be going to press soon. He is published in Hume Studies and the British Journal of Aesthetics.

Doors 10.30. Entry £3, £2 concs./free to Conway Hall Ethical Society members (no tickets needed).

Brockway Room (Ground floor).

Tea, coffee & biscuits will be available.


Conway Hall (View)
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL
United Kingdom



Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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