[The following passage is from the chapter on Hume in Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy, 1945. The entire chapter, though a bit difficult if taken in one gulp, is of paramount importance.]
Hume’s philosophy, whether true or false, represents the bankruptcy of eighteenth-century reasonableness. He starts out like Locke, with the intention of being sensible and empirical, taking nothing on trust, but seeking whatever instruction is to be obtained from experience and observation. But having a better intellect than Locke’s, a great acuteness in analysis, and a smaller capacity for accepting comfortable inconsistencies, he arrives at the disastrous conclusion that from experience and observation nothing is to be learnt. There is no such thing as a rational belief: ‘If we believe that fire warms, or water refreshes, ‘tis only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise.’ We cannot help believing, but no belief can be grounded in reason. The growth of unreason throughout the nineteenth century and what has passed of the twentieth is a natural sequel to Hume’s destruction of empiricism.
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