“Jean-Paul Sartre reaps the benefits of his cool image. Whether historically accurate or not, there is a definite romance to the Left Bank cafés, the Gauloise cigarettes, the black polonecks and all that intense talk of despair and freedom. Hume, on the other hand, played billiards in drawing rooms and loved his mum.
The mystique of Kierkegaard and Camus is heightened by their young and tragic deaths. Hume passed away aged 65 of intestinal cancer, cheerful and in good humour. That’s really no way to start a posthumous personality cult.
Indeed, the average person in the street knows little more about the man – except, perhaps, that ‘David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel’, as the Monty Python song insisted.
And yet Hume has endured, hailed by many as the greatest British philosopher. Can we go further and say he is the greatest philosopher, full stop? I think we can, not least because Hume’s whole approach to philosophy is needed even more now than it was in his time.”