Our tradition of the Enlightenment. Secularism and at least partly a sectarian quarrel with religion. They could never fairly assess the contours of Christian thought, art and humanitarianism and in so doing opened the door to the counter Enlightenment which led down the slippery slope to the likes of Heidegger and other bastard offspring. The liberal, rational, humanitarian way of thought has been hegemonic now, seemingly as mundane and banal as a Marcel Duchamp ready-made. But is it possible it is no longer “relevant” ?…
When David Hume came to Paris in 1763, the philosophes, enlightened noblemen, and fashionable hostesses all rushed to acclaim him. From his estate in Ferney, Voltaire greeted Hume as “my St. David, ” while in Paris Mme d’Epinay reported that “no feast is complete without him.” Even Mme Pompadour fluttered around the fifty-two year old Scottish philosopher whose youthful Treatise of Human Nature had borne the subtitle Being an Attempt to Apply the Experimental Method of Reasoning to Moral Subjects and whose “Natural History of Religion” had sabotaged revealed religion by quietly treating it as a mere phenomenon.
Yet the Paris philosophes failed to see that they were clutching a dangerous genius to their bosom. For the enlightened philosophy of Hume subverted the Enlightenment. The philosophes believed in scientific law; Hume’s analysis demolished the traditional concept of cause and effect. The philosophes believed that god the creator could be deduced from the creation; Hume demolished that deist argument as well. The philosophes looked for a morality based on reason; Hume showed that morality derives from the passions. Himself an easygoing worldling, Hume left the structure of human thought far shakier than any philosophe imagined it could be.
Examine the religious principles which have, in fact, prevailed in the world, and you will scarcely be persuaded that they are anything but sick men’s dreams. – David Hume