Hume on the balanced life

I’m feeling crushed by the woes of the world, as if it’s incumbent on me to fix its problems and set everyone straight. I should blush at my arrogance. Blushing would at least lend me a rosy semblance of health. Instead, my face is pale and drawn from a day of fretting. And besides, I’m too tired to feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admission. A wiser person than I would have a glass of wine and go to bed. A wiser person still would avoid this distasteful predicament by cultivating a balanced mind. Such is the advice of David Hume,

“Man is a reasonable being; and as such, receives from science his proper food and nourishment: But so narrow are the bounds of human understanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this particular, either from the extent or security of his acquisitions. Man is a sociable, no less than a reasonable being: But neither can he always enjoy company agreeable and amusing, or preserve the proper relish for them. Man is also an active being; and from that disposition, as well as from the various necessities of human life, must submit to business and occupation: But the mind requires some relaxation, and cannot always support its bent to care and industry. It seems, then, that nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most suitable to the human race, and secretly admonished them to allow none of these biasses to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them for other occupations and entertainments. Indulge your passion for science, says she, but let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.”

David Hume. Ed. Eric Steinberg. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Second Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. (First printed in 1748.) (Section I, p 3 &4)

Photo, Agerola, Italy. Amalfi Coast.

Categories: Arts and Leisure

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2 replies


  1. Just a Thought. 21. –
  2. Just a Thought.22. –

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