Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
David Hume in Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
David Hume (1711-76) was a Scottish philosopher, essayist, economist, and historian known for his philosophical empiricism. He influenced the Founding Fathers with his combination of scientific methodology gleaned from Isaac Newton and his work building on the political philosophy of John Locke. He was friends with Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. In many ways, Hume was the opposite of philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who argued that thought and the structure of society derived from physical nature. On the contrary, Hume reasoned that they both came from the human senses, from what he called ideas and impressions.
Hume's distinction between "synthetic" and "analytic" truths provided inspiration for the concept of "self-evident" truths in the Declaration of Independence. His friend, Benjamin Franklin, changed Jefferson's language from "we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "we hold these truths to be self-evident." The change reflected a statement grounded in reason, rooted in the principles of the scientific revolution, rather than the notion that the equality of all men was an article of religious faith.