Hume was Briefly Employed as a Librarian

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.  He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

  • 2 Kings 22:11-13

Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”
“Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”
Then the officials said to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide.  Don’t let anyone know where you are.”
After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him.  The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him.  It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.  Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.  The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.  Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.  Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.

  • Jeremiah 36:17-26

“The third of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of British empiricism is the Scot DAVID HUME (1711-1776).  He published his first book, A Treatise of Human Nature, when he was twenty-seven and he hoped to achieve fame and fortune from it, but, by his own reckoning, it ‘fell dead-born from the press.’
“Hume’s philosophy began with … a distinction between ‘relations of ideas’ and ‘matters of fact.’ …
“It would seem that any empiricist who accepted this was jeopardizing the program of empiricism by recognizing the legitimacy of rationalists’ dream, but Hume defused this situation by adding one more characteristic to the list of features of ‘relations of ideas.’  He said that they are all TAUTOLOGICAL, that is, they are all redundant, repetitive, merely verbal truths that provide no new information about the world, only information about the meaning or words. … Anybody who really understands the concept ‘five’ and the concepts ‘three,’ ‘two,’ and ‘plus’ already knows that ‘3+2=5.’  So the rationalistic dream of a complete description of reality which is ‘a priori’ and necessarily true is a will-o’-the-wisp because ‘a priori truths aren’t descriptions of anything, according to Hume.
“What Hume was claiming was that there are basically only three categories of analysis.  Given any proposition whatsoever, that proposition is either ANALYTIC, SYNTHETIC, or NONSENSE.  Hume said:
“’When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make?  If we take in our hand any volume – of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance – let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number [i.e., analytical truths]? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence [i.e. synthetic truths]? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’”
“(No wonder Hume lost his job as a librarian.)”

  • Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter

“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”

  • C. S, Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Note:  Palmer calls Locke, Berkeley, and Hume the “Holy Trinity” of British empiricists.  Locke, who seemed to be a strong believer, charged into unknown territory with great intentions, correcting the wrongs of bad philosophy before him – just leaving a few holes that any explorer in uncharted territory might do upon their first attempt.  Berkeley was far from “holy” being an Anglican priest who had to account for the existence of God through a backdoor.  As a true believer, I would have to start with Truth, God Himself, and build from there.  Berkeley’s philosophy puzzles me and troubles me, knowing him to be a church leader.  Then, Hume is as unholy as you can get, being a non-believer.  Thus, I take exception to the author’s characterization – not “holy” and far from the Trinity.  “Three Musketeers”?  Maybe.  “Three Stooges”?  That might insult John Locke but may be apropos for the other two.

Again, definitions: “A Priori” – pertaining to propositions relating to theoretical concepts and not observation / experience – thus analytical propositions, or “relations of ideas.”  This flies in the face of Berkeley’s esse is percipi (existence must be observable – and from this, and his lack of perceiving God, had to create a backdoor to ‘correct’ his mistake).  Allowing analytical propositions at all seems the opposite of empiricism (knowledge by experience).  In contrast, “A Posteriori” – pertaining to propositions relating to experience and observation, not theoretical – thus synthetic propositions, or “matters of fact.”  And then Hume takes it one step further and casts all “nonsense” into the fire.

When the Bibles were recently burned in Portland, not as many as was reported, but more than one, they might have been confused about the interpretation of Hume.  Hume never characterized himself as ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic,’ but he seemed to live the definition of atheism.  He might have applauded the burning of Bibles, as being information that we could not analyze or synthesize.  But to most theologians who honestly believe in God, what cannot be experienced with regard to God can most definitely be theorized and analyzed.  Unless you are like Hume, and you doggedly refuse to use reason – in other words, to think.  Although in philosophy, you are bound to such a task of being open-minded to Truth and thus analyze it.

I wonder what volumes Hume wanted to burn or may have burned, since he lost his job as a librarian – probably for cause rather than simple philosophy?  Was he just talking of philosophical arguments, thus any text that relates to the Bible alone would have to go into the fire?  Or would the Narnia series, with its clear allegorical tales be sent to the fire?  What of the Lord of the Rings series?  I think of Kathy at A Time to Share, Amy at A New Life, Ruelha, and Poetry by Deborah Ann?  I hesitate to do a shout out for these poets.  They are each wonderful, but I have probably left out far too many.  And I humbly apologize to all who I have missed.  But would Hume consider poetry ‘nonsense’ and relegate it to the fire?

But if Hume meant all knowledge, then all fiction would have to be cast into the fire.  The fires must have ranged in Hume’s mind, and his bookshelves must have dwindled.

But what of book burning itself?  Contrast the two kings of Judah in the Scriptures above.  King Josiah ripped his clothing to show his deep feelings of remorse and repentance.  He had the scroll of the Law read to the people.  He took action to correct the wrongs of his ancestors and set things right.  But Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, attained the throne through Pharaoh Necho who placed him there after the evil King Jehoahaz, another of Josiah’s sons, was killed.  Jehoiakim did not have any remorse.  Instead, the first book burning was recorded in history, and Jehoiakim sought to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch, probably to cast them into the fire as well.

In Acts 18:19, the sorcerers who challenged the Apostle Paul burned their books of sorcery, since God had proven Himself through the Apostle Paul.  They did this out of repentance, realizing that God was too powerful.

Yet, for the most part, burning books has been something done to symbolize no idea, other than the idea of those burning the books, will be tolerated.  Thus, a total shutdown of “thinking.”  Expressing the only acceptable idea, as the liberals want to enforce today, is not thinking, only parroting.

The secular progressives of today call President Trump a Nazi, yet they use Nazi tactics.  In fact, listen to the video carefully.  The Nazi government tried brainwashing the populace and eliminating all other ideas from discussion.  That is, in part, going on today.  The secular progressives started by denigrating anyone with an opposing idea as being intellectually inferior, especially those who believe in God.  Stupid, thus why listen to them?  In a recent post, I linked to a conversation between Eric Metaxas, Mark Lowry, and Andrew Greer.  Metaxas feels that this concept held by the intellectual elite of today is horribly wrong, that those who he knew who were intelligent, articulate, and even funny, were Christians.

Note:  Of the book burnings that I mentioned here, the one in Acts 18 was an act of the owners of the books destroying their own books of sorcery as part of repentance, a turning from their old life to a life of obedience to God.  In most other cases, the historically significant book burnings have been people destroying the books of others to prevent an intelligent discourse that might result in an opposing opinion.

They may burn my library, but they can never burn the Words of God that are written on my heart.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. August 18, 2020 — 9:35 am

    Thanks for including me alongside those amazing poets. I’m deeply humbled. I pray that the insanity will soon end. Prayer is the only way we can surmount this difficult time. God is still in control. BTW today is Bad Poets Day. Did you know?

    Liked by 1 person

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