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How David Hume Became the First Modern Humanist

Dr Amyas Merivale, winner of Conway Hall’s Blackham Fellowship award, will tell the story of David Hume’s hugely significant moment in the history of ideas.

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 epiphany—prompted by, of all things, the sermons of an English clergyman—and 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.

Dr Amyas Merivale, winner of Conway Hall’s 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 Hume’s 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.


Dr Amyas Merivale | talks


Date and Time:

5 June 2016 at 10:30 am


1 hour 30 minutes



Conway Hall
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
0207 242 8034

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