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2011 marks 300 years since the birth of the great David Hume.  He was perhaps the greatest philosopher ever to write in the English language and on these grounds the ABC recently devoted four programs of The Philosopher’s Zone to his life and work.  You will find several references to him if you search for his name on this website. 

 

 

A pillar of the Scottish Enlightenment David Hume was, and continues to be, enormously influential.  Even those who were less sceptical of received beliefs than he was were persuaded by his moral philosophy.  

In many ways his ideas were formative in the development of Australia; as I have described elsewhere.

I still have A Treatise on Human Nature; An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding; The Natural History of Religion; and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; from my time reading Philosophy at University; complete with my youthful underlining and marginal notes.

These stand alongside Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published 100 years later, as among the most important books ever written in English.  These seminal works joined Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, by the young Isaac Newton, first published in Latin in 1687; a century before Hume’s publications.

There were great intellectual and cultural strides during those intervening years.  Despite his differences with traditional theologians, Newton, like his slightly older contemporary French scientist and mathematician Pascal, still had one foot in theology.  Hume swept this mysticism away and set the scene for Darwin and the other great intellects of the 18th Century.

Thanks to Hume Darwin was able to become a true modern scientist and rationalist. But Hume’s influence did not stop there. His method of sceptical thought led on through Russell and Einstein to contemporary mathematics and science; including our understanding of subatomic physics and the wider Universe; and the computer and biological revolutions of our day.  I have described this process elsewhere on this website.

 

  

 

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Travel

Burma (Myanmar)

 

 

This is a fascinating country in all sorts of ways and seems to be most popular with European and Japanese tourists, some Australians of course, but they are everywhere.

Since childhood Burma has been a romantic and exotic place for me.  It was impossible to grow up in the Australia of the 1950’s and not be familiar with that great Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson’s rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s 'On the Road to Mandalay' recorded two decades or so earlier:  

Come you back to Mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
Can't you hear their paddles chunking
From Rangoon to Mandalay

On the road to Mandalay
Where the flying fishes play
And the Dawn comes up like thunder
out of China 'cross the bay

The song went Worldwide in 1958 when Frank Sinatra covered it with a jazz orchestration, and ‘a Burma girl’ got changed to ‘a Burma broad’; ‘a man’ to ‘a cat’; and ‘temple bells’ to ‘crazy bells’.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Through the Looking Glass

 

 

 

 

 

I'm seeing on TV senior politicians, including the Liberal PM and involved Labor Victorians (bi-partisan), gathering in Morwell in Victoria to announce that jobs in the Latrobe Valley have been saved by a Japanese consortium that will build a pilot plant to convert brown coal to hydrogen. Read Here...

I had to pinch myself to check that our screen had not somehow turned itself into Lewis Carroll's looking glass and sucked me through to the other side.

Fans of the Reverend Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) work will recall some 'weird shit' in Wonderland like: Alice growing and shrinking; a disembodied cat coming and going; and babies turning into pigs.  But these adventures are put into the shade by Alice's subsequent experiences: Through the Looking-Glass

Hydrogen from coal (carbon) - really?  Surely they mean hydrogen from water. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Energy woes in South Australia

 

 

 

 

South Australia has run aground on the long foreseen wind energy reef - is this a lee shore?

Those of you who have followed my energy commentaries published here over the past six years will know that this situation was the entirely predictable outcome of South Australia pressing on with an unrealistic renewable energy target dependent on wind generated electricity, subsidised by market distorting Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) (previously called RECs in some places on this website - the name was changed after their publication).  

Read more ...

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