The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought
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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46 Moreover, Smith's other book, The Wealth of Nations, is strikingly secular in
language and outlook, and some of his posthumously published essays are
deeply skeptical in character. There is no more consensus today than there was
This is often taken as an indication that Smith disagreed with or disapproved of
Hume's skepticism, but we will see in chapter 10 that this episode was in fact less
acrimonious and philosophically charged than is generally assumed. Moreover ...
With regard to how Hume and Smith were viewed and treated by their
contemporaries, the subtle theoretical distinction between Hume's skepticism and
Smith's skeptical deism was far less consequential than the much bigger practical
While skepticism is often associated with nihilism and paralysis, Hume suggests
that it actually tends to lead to inner tranquility, intellectual humility, and a passion
for ever-further inquiry. The essay also explores how one might attain the ...
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CHAPTER 2 Encountering Hume 17231749
CHAPTER 3 A Budding Friendship 17501754
CHAPTER 4 The Historian and the Kirk 17541759 ...
CHAPTER 5 Theorizing the Moral Sentiments 1759 ...
CHAPTER 6 Fêted in France 17591766
CHAPTER 7 Quarrel with a Wild Philosopher 17661767 ...
CHAPTER 10 Dialoguing about Natural Religion 1776 ...
CHAPTER 11 A Philosophers Death 1776
CHAPTER 12 Ten Times More Abuse 17761777
EPILOGUE Smiths Final Years in Edinburgh 17771790 ...
APPENDIX Humes My Own Life and Smiths Letter from Adam Smith LLD to William Strahan Esq
Notes on Works Cited
CHAPTER 8 Mortally Sick at Sea 17671775
CHAPTER 9 Inquiring into the Wealth of Nations 1776 ...