Hume on Life

Patrick and I were talking about a quote from David Hume that appears in the recent book I am reading, Evil in Modern Thought. It’s not one of the better quotes, even in this book, which is a history of philosophy, but Patrick wanted me to get it into Maddenation to start the habit of putting good quotes into the electronic format. It will also afford all of us an opportunity to comment, and add similar (or better) quotes.

To introduce it, the question being discussed at this point in the book is whether or not most people would choose to live their life over again (given that life is so miserable). Hume says many things about this (along with voltaire, and many others) but what I read to Patrick was the following:

Thus at last they find (such is the greatness of human misery; it reconciles even contracidtions) that they complain, at once, of the shortness of life, and of its vanity and sorrow.

Kind of like that old saying that you can’t complain about how bad the food tastes and also about the small portions. Life is like that though, we complain, but faced with the unknown, we’d just as soon go at it again. Ever the optimists, we often complain about how bad the last few years have been, but assure ourselves that the next few years will be much better. Also reminds me of Bishop Sheen, who had his own TV show back in the 50’s called “Life is worth living.” He was so good he transcended religion and was loved by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews everywhere. (In those days, we didn’t know about Muslims yet.) so what do you think? Life worth living? why? How?

DadQuotes04/26/03 5 comments


David • 04/28/03 2:20 PM:

Here’s a great quote I have from George Bernard Shaw (I don’t even know who he is/was) - but the quote is wonderful.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being the force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community; as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is not “brief candle” to me. It is a short splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

I love this quote - carpe diem.

Patrick • 04/29/03 12:27 AM:

In written form I must stifle my appallment that you don’t know who George Bernard Shaw is, or that your curiosity has never brought you to look him up. Here is his page at the official Nobel Prize site. Note that he was Irish. An Irish Nobel Prize winner. Even if you haven’t read his famous play Pygmalion (the basis for the movie My Fair Lady), you should know who he is. And note that he did have a mustache. Also a beard.

David • 04/29/03 12:49 PM:

Okay Okay. I should’ve checked beforehand. My bad. Don’t hate me.

Not even a thanks or comment on the great quote? What about that? :)

Patrick • 05/01/03 9:16 AM:

Thank you for the great quote. If you’d like to hear him saying some cool quotes, go to the BBC’s Audio Interviews page.

Patrick • 05/01/03 9:17 AM:

By the way, Dad, I remembered this quote being longer. Or maybe the author of your book wrote something after it that was good? Is there more here?

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