We want to know about philosophers’ lives in part to see how they applied their philosophy to their own lives. Plato’s account of Socrates’ life, trial, and death sets a great example here, perhaps never equalled, just as few philosophers equal Socrates in integrity and courage.
At the end of part 3 of Book 1 of his Treatise,1 Hume had given a touchstone by which to judge any account of the human mind, namely that, where other animals appear to display the same cognitive operation that we do, our account applies as well to them as to us.2 He tests his own account of causal inference this way and finds that it comes through with flying colors, since the effects of experience of constant conjunctions on animal (...) minds is just as he has claimed it to be on ours. Some of their actions, such as nest building and sitting on their eggs till they hatch, are "extraordinary instances of sagacity" (T 220.127.116.11; SBN 177), but on other matters, they, like us, learn from experience, so that the older one .. (shrink)
Adam Smith’s famous account of Hume’s death, in his letter to Strahan, included a reference to what Hume had been reading shortly before his death, Lucian’s “Dialogues of the Dead.” But when one reads those, one becomes puzzled by Smith’s report that Hume had been trying out excuses to delay death, for no such scene occurs in those Lucian dialogues. Fortunately Smith’s was not the only letter written about exactly what Lucian dialogue Hume was reading.
Should a "caring" immigration policy give special treatment to would-be immigrants who are near neighbors? It is argued that, while those on our borders requesting entry have some special claim, it should not drown out the claims of more distant applicants for citizenship.
Both a morality, like Kant's, which relies on wrongdoers' guilt feelings and expectation of punishment, as enforcement for its requirements, and one which, like Hume's, relies on the feelings of shame and expectation of their fellows' contempt which will be felt by those showing lack of the moral virtues, seem to merit the charge that morality is an intrinsically cruel institution. The prospects for a gentle non-punitive morality are explored, and Hume's views found more promising, for this purpose, than Kant's.