email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAll That You Leave BehindAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BodiesBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecause We Are BadBecoming AnnaBecoming MyselfBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEarly ExposuresEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGetting OffGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Am Dynamite!I Am I Am I AmI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNever EnoughNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Apparent DistressNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsRXScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabServing the ServantSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Amazing Things HappenSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Art of MisdiagnosisThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Bright HourThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family GeneThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Infidel and the ProfessorThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Mother of Black HollywoodThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Neuroscientist Who Lost Her MindThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Only Girl in the WorldThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Quiet RoomThe RecoveringThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyThomas S. SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Going to Need More WineWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I Left, Why I StayedWhy I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou All Grow Up and Leave MeYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Though Harris details Hume's views on ideas, impressions, passions, cause, history, religion, and morals, the reader should know he presents a kaleidoscope--"the development of Hume's ideas through time is a principal concern of this book. . . ." (xiii)--rather than evaluates them systematically. The reader needs no skill at philosophic disassembly. He believes the work to be "the first intellectual biography of Hume . . . [making the] "attempt to give a complete picture of . . . the full range of his writings. . . ." (vii); Hume's main biographer, Mossner, writes ' "for a reader less interested in the ideas than in the man".' (ix) Behind that word "range" lie hundreds of pages revealing Hume as a fiercely independent underminer of cant in complex tension with his own natural affability, sense of practical moderation, concern for reputation, and desire to support, as social scientists say, the cohesive effect of religion as "the flywheel of society," despite his nuanced relation to atheism. He (51) simply had "[no] emotional . . . need for religion. . . ." He disfavored our philosophical counseling: ethics as therapy, medicine for the mind (265).
The reader best previews the text through the introduction, the afterword, and enough of the first chapter to counterpose Shaftesbury's influence to that of Bernard Mandeville and Bayle, followed, perhaps, by a sifting of the extensive endnotes for insights. For Harris (2) Hume "is best seen . . . as . . . a philosophical man of letters . . . who wrote on human nature, on politics, on religion, and on the history of England. . . ." rather than in our sense of letters as literary. Harris questions (12-13) any fundamental continuity to his thought (14): We best "take each of Hume's major works on its own terms, as an independent and distinct expression of its author's genius . . . if we are to diminish the temptation to regard any one of those works as plainly more important than the rest." Those works include, of twenty (575-77): Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, The History of England, as well as, out of concern for attack, the posthumous Essay on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul. Again (25): "We can say . . . both that Hume never gave up on philosophy and that there was nothing systematic about the manner in which he chose . . . topics. . . ." Harris emphasizes Hume's ambivalence toward his early Treatise of Human Nature as well as his misgivings about publishing works that might incite religious dogmatists wishing to exclude him either from presbyteries or from academic positions (which in the end he would have refused).
That drive for independence (18) meant that "he never accepted . . . a position, or a favour, that . . .[kept] . . . him from writing as he wanted to write . . . unconstrained by any practical demands, whether professional or political, or, for that matter, moral." Although Hume shared a novelist's interest (20) in "the foibles and weaknesses of particular human beings" the historian was to alternate between particulars and generalities. Indeed, because of increasing awareness of "distinction of ranks" (John Millar), propaganda, "factions," ideology, and norms, Hume was a proto-sociologist. He had close contact, including exchange of works, with continental intellectuals: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and other philosophes, not to mention his best domestic friend, Adam Smith. Stylistically, Hume pestered publishers (23) by "constantly re-reading his own works, mostly with a view to minute alterations. . . ." Behind his reactions I sense the chameleon-like ambivalence of social being who would be neither Aristotle's beast nor god.
Simple things remain unanswered after Harris. The inquiring reader might find Hume entering the university at ten, eleven, twelve, or even thirteen, years of age.
More important, we must reconcile a book entitled Hume, where the "major events in Hume's life are fully described" (publicity blurb before the title page), with Harris's statement (viii), "Several important episodes of Hume I say little about." A half-page paragraph (viii-ix) listing events excluded fails to mention one Agnes Galbraith who named David as co-responsible for her pregnancy. Harris rightly advises starting with Mossner's Life which addresses that question, while he, ignoring it, prevents weighing its possible relation to Hume's strictures on religion and morals. He must not allow any doubt to stand. Weeks before Agnes's admission of turpitude Hume left for Bristol for a mercantile career. Did she wait until then so he could not defend himself? Did they plan the escape? Who could be privy to such a conversation? David's uncle was the cleric who had to investigate, with church elders, her probity. (She would ultimately face them a fourth time.) She weathered being put in the pillory for a few hours on a Sunday, as well as the uncle's condemnation from the pulpit, whence he wished her dead in childbirth. My extensive search beyond Harris inclines me to, as did they, doubt her claim.
Everything up to now suggests "Hume's Thought" as a more logical title. Titillation cannot motivate us. At minimum the controversy would upset him, or he might feel compassion. But Harris is the one man who could make a judgment about any effect on his thought, and thus dismiss the matter after a forthright examination. Much less deserving of mention is Hume's timid relationship with the Comtesse de Boufflers who strode the Channel after him as he hid from her. She was also not above using him to keep her social position. Frankly I believe his strictures regarding religion and morals derive from his intellectual integrity, his consummate skill in "deconstructing" any argument, and his ability, famously, to "awaken [us] from our dogmatic slumbers."
On the positive side, rather than stop collecting an annual salary from the Advocate's Library, he gave the 42 pounds (a lot at that time) to his blind poet friend, William Blacklock (353). Harris diminishes the kindness saying "it saved his honour."
Finally, Harris fails to report Hume's claim, on delivering his critique of miracles to Jesuits at La Flèche, of leaving them "gravelled." Hume was not an outright Pyrrhonist. "Humean impartiality was a matter of being willing to offend everyone." (375) Again, he was moderate and practical.
Many wanted the dying atheist, who called that position an outgrowth of "merely verbal" skepticism, to recant. For Johnson, who considered Hume a liar, Boswell asked if he believed an afterlife was possible. The answer: "It was possible a piece of coal put on the fire would not burn."
Harris's writing style approaches that of Hume, sentence lengthy and with comma breaks, as between subject and object, and unjustifiably between main and subordinates clauses, that would offend the fluidity North American readers prefer. The fastidious reader will wince at rare usage errors: no possessive before the gerund; a few balancing syntactical parallelisms left uncompleted; editors missing words dropped and added, which deter us little. The sophisticated reader will wade through with greater ease. The reader making a considerable outlay of cash will want to remain in the armchair when complex historical details swamp the mind. Thus, an appendix outlining essential history would save time. Explaining key terms, such as Whig--contractarian, religious (latitudinarian?), political (republican?, court?)--and Tory, would obviate needless search and add to understanding. Positively, the book is a course review in modern Euro-American history since Hume supported our "just" revolution.
© 2016 Anthony P. Bober
A.P. Bober has studied a psychology spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic European-based sociology including the "critical" view. His teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and "issues in biological anthropology," with publications in the first two fields. Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as metaphorically tied to neuroendocrinology.