The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought

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Princeton University Press, Aug 28, 2017 - Philosophy - 336 pages
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The story of the greatest of all philosophical friendships—and how it influenced modern thought

David Hume is widely regarded as the most important philosopher ever to write in English, but during his lifetime he was attacked as “the Great Infidel” for his skeptical religious views and deemed unfit to teach the young. In contrast, Adam Smith was a revered professor of moral philosophy, and is now often hailed as the founding father of capitalism. Remarkably, the two were best friends for most of their adult lives, sharing what Dennis Rasmussen calls the greatest of all philosophical friendships. The Infidel and the Professor is the first book to tell the fascinating story of the friendship of these towering Enlightenment thinkers—and how it influenced their world-changing ideas.

The book follows Hume and Smith’s relationship from their first meeting in 1749 until Hume’s death in 1776. It describes how they commented on each other’s writings, supported each other’s careers and literary ambitions, and advised each other on personal matters, most notably after Hume’s quarrel with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Members of a vibrant intellectual scene in Enlightenment Scotland, Hume and Smith made many of the same friends (and enemies), joined the same clubs, and were interested in many of the same subjects well beyond philosophy and economics—from psychology and history to politics and Britain’s conflict with the American colonies. The book reveals that Smith’s private religious views were considerably closer to Hume’s public ones than is usually believed. It also shows that Hume contributed more to economics—and Smith contributed more to philosophy—than is generally recognized.

Vividly written, The Infidel and the Professor is a compelling account of a great friendship that had great consequences for modern thought.

 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION Dearest Friends
1
CHAPTER 1 The Cheerful Skeptic 17111749
18
CHAPTER 2 Encountering Hume 17231749
36
CHAPTER 3 A Budding Friendship 17501754
50
CHAPTER 4 The Historian and the Kirk 17541759 ...
71
CHAPTER 5 Theorizing the Moral Sentiments 1759 ...
86
CHAPTER 6 Fêted in France 17591766
113
CHAPTER 7 Quarrel with a Wild Philosopher 17661767 ...
133
CHAPTER 10 Dialoguing about Natural Religion 1776 ...
186
CHAPTER 11 A Philosophers Death 1776
199
CHAPTER 12 Ten Times More Abuse 17761777
215
EPILOGUE Smiths Final Years in Edinburgh 17771790 ...
229
APPENDIX Humes My Own Life and Smiths Letter from Adam Smith LLD to William Strahan Esq
239
Notes on Works Cited
253
Notes
257
Index
309

CHAPTER 8 Mortally Sick at Sea 17671775
146
CHAPTER 9 Inquiring into the Wealth of Nations 1776 ...
160

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About the author (2017)

Dennis C. Rasmussen is associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His books include The Pragmatic Enlightenment. He lives in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

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