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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

China

 

 

I first visited China in November 1986.  I was representing the New South Wales Government on a multinational mission to our Sister State Guangdong.  My photo taken for the trip is still in the State archive [click here].  The theme was regional and small business development.  The group heard presentations from Chinese bureaucrats and visited a number of factories in rural and industrial areas in Southern China.  It was clear then that China was developing at a very fast rate economically. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

As Tim Minchin sings in White Wine in the Sun [turn on your sound...] Christmas is a time for family.  Last year our family got bigger.  Tilda Charlotte was born in Germany. This Christmas she is walking and sort of talking (a couple of German words at least).  So the lyrics:

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
When Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun Darling, whenever you come
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Waiting
  

have a special meaning this year:  I really like Christmas - It's sentimental, I know.

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Opinions and Philosophy

A modern fairytale - in a Parallel Universe

 

I've dusted off this little satirical parable that I wrote in response to the The Garnaut Climate Change Review (2008).  It's not entirely fair but then satire never is.

 


 

 

In a parallel universe, in 1920† Sidney, the place where Sydney is in ours, had need of a harbour crossing.

An engineer, Dr Roadfield, was engaged to look at the practicalities; including the geology and geography and required property resumptions, in the context of contemporary technical options. 

After considering the options he reported that most advanced countries solve the harbour crossing problem with a bridge.  He proposed that they make the decision to have a bridge; call for tenders for an engineering design; raise the finance; and build it.  We'll call it the 'Sidney Harbour Bridge' he said; then less modestly: 'and the new crossing will be called the Roadfield Highway'. 

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