Philosophie en langue anglaise 2 - Université Bordeaux Montaigne

Philosophie en langue anglaise 2

Crédits ECTS : 4.0

Volume horaire CM : 18.0

Volume horaire TD : 18.0

Code ELP : LEA2U3

Composante : UFR Humanités

Période de l'année : Semestre 2

Formes d'enseignement : Non accessible à distance

Mobilité d'études : Oui


David Hume's Skepticism and Its Legacy in Britain and the United States

Historian, essayist, and a central, controversial figure in the Enlightenment, David Hume (1711-1776) is one of the greatest philosophers in the British tradition and the most influential skeptic of the modern era. 

The primary focus of the course will be on the nature of David Hume's skepticism and its legacy in Britain and the United States, from Scottish "Common Sense" philosophy  to New England Transcendentalism.  We will begin with an overview of Hume's experimental method and his conception of human nature and the limited power of reason within it, in contrast to the power of feeling, the imagination, and natural belief-formation.  In this overview of his philosophy and its reception at home and abroad (with glances at Germany and France), emphasis will be placed on what his readers and critics saw (and continue to see) as "the two Humes"—"Hume the skeptic" and "Hume the naturalist": on the one hand, the skeptic for whom neither reason nor the senses can justify our belief in the existence of an ongoing external world or in a stable personal identity or unified self; on the other, the philosopher who considers that "nature is always too strong for principle" and that the skeptical conclusions of philosophy turn out to be, in view of the power of the imagination and the mechanisms of natural belief-formation, of little or no practical consequence in the conduct of everyday life. We shall also examine the implications of his skepticism for moral philosophy and religious belief.  

Finally—and since this course is part of a philosophy-English curriculum—we shall not omit careful consideration of one of Hume's greatest strengths as a philosopher: his consummate style. We shall see how the many examples of humor and irony further the skeptical aims of one of the finest philosophical writers in the English language.


1. To familiarize students with Hume's doctrine and his place in the history of philosophy, through his writings and their impact on his contemporaries and on philosophers and religious thinkers who came after him.

2. To use Hume as a case-study to give students a clear sense of the historical, cultural, and religious stakes involved in the reception of a controversial philosophical doctrine

3. To acquire a method of close reading of philosophical prose in English

4.  To develop discussion and writing skills in English on philosophical themes, combining both technical and everyday terms.

Contrôle des connaissances

1ère session :

Etudiants en régime général : 50% contrôle continu (exercices réalisés en TD ou à la maison) +  50% examen écrit terminal.

Etudiants en régime spécial : examen écrit terminal
 2ème session (rattrapage)

Etudiants en régime général et spécial : examen écrit terminal.

Informations complémentaires

This course will be taught in English.

Students will be expected to participate actively in the discussion group sessions (TD).

N.B. Students must come to class with their own print copy of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, which will be absolutely indispensable for the written exam. They are urged to buy a copy in the Penguin Classics edition (approximately 13€ new)  before the second semester (to allow sufficient time for delivery).   We will be working with the Treatise throughout the semester. 


Required Reading :

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), recommended edition: Penguin Classics, ed. Ernest Mossner.  

Passages in the Treatise we will be emphasizing:

  • Title Page, "Advertisement," and "Introduction"
  • Book 1: Part 1.1 (Of the Origin of Our Ideas"), Part 2.6 ("Of the Idea of Existence, and of External Existence"), Part 3.14 ("Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion"), Part 3.16 ("Of the Reason of Animals" and the corresponding chapter in Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding), all of Part 4, but especially Part 4.6 ("Of Personal Identity") and 4.7 ("Conclusion of this Book")
  • Book 2: Part 3.3 ("Of the Influencing Motives of the Will")
  • Book 3: Part 1.1-2 ("Moral Distinctions not Deriv'd from Reason," "Moral Distinctions Deriv'd from a Moral Sense")
  • Appendix to the Treatise (especially the paragraphs where Hume revisits his argument on personal identity)
  • "Abstract" to the Treatise

Background Readings in English (Optional) :

  • Annette C. Baier, A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume's Treatise, Harvard UP
  • A.P. Cavendish, David Hume, Dover
  • Robert J. Fogelin, Hume's Skepticism in the Treatise of Human Nature, Routledge
  • James A. Harris, Hume: An Intellectual Biography, Cambridge UP
  • Norman Kemp-Smith, The Philosophy of David Hume, Macmillan
  • Nicholas Philippson, David Hume: The Philosopher as Historian, Yale UP
  • John Rawls, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, chapters on Hume (1-5), Harvard UP
  • Barry Stroud, Hume, chapters 1 ("The Study of Human Nature") and 6 ("The Idea of Personal Identity"), Routledge.

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