Sunday, January 08, 2012

Alison Gopnik - Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism?

Neuroscientist and philosopher Alsion Gopnik looks at the work of David Hume and the possible influence of Buddhsim on his thinking and writing. She makes a good argument that Hume likely was exposed to Buddhist ideas through a Jesuit missionary.

The article appeared in Hume Studies (2009); Volume 35, Number 1&2, pp. 5–28.

Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism? Charles Francois Dolu, the Royal College of La Flèche, and the Global Jesuit Intellectual Network

Alison Gopnik
Abstract: Philosophers and Buddhist scholars have noted the affinities between David Hume’s empiricism and the Buddhist philosophical tradition. I show that it was possible for Hume to have had contact with Buddhist philosophical views. The link to Buddhism comes through the Jesuit scholars at the Royal College of La Flèche. Charles Francois Dolu was a Jesuit missionary who lived at the Royal College from 1723–1740, overlapping with Hume’s stay. He had extensive knowledge both of other religions and cultures and of scientific ideas. Dolu had had first-hand experience with Theravada Buddhism as part of the second French embassy to Siam in 1687–1688. In 1727, Dolu also had talked with Ippolito Desideri, a Jesuit missionary who visited Tibet and made an extensive study of Tibetan Buddhism from 1716–1721. It is at least possible that Hume heard about Buddhist ideas through Dolu.
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