Hexwood: the name 'Hume' (spoilers)

amaebi at iwon.com amaebi at iwon.com
Fri Apr 13 11:35:47 EDT 2001

Neil speculated:

>>In my quest for background, I looked up Hume as a given name,
>>and came across this information about the 18C Scottish
>>philosopher, David Hume: -
>>I wonder if DWJ knew of David Hume when she wrote "Hexwood"?  >

And Hallie replied:

>I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to whether she'd talked about
>the name, intended the reference, or anything of the kind, but
>I *would* bet she knew of him.
>And just for a teeny, relatively boring synchronicity (relative
>to Neil's, that is), who should pop up in my course book today
>but Hume. Not that big a deal, but still, not someone I'd have
>necessarily expected to be mentioned in a section on Romantic

I agree with Hallie-- it would be very surprising if Diana Wynne Jones had
not heard of David Hume. (Neil's interesting association of Hume's work
on perception and inference with the plot of Hexwood makes me wonder for
the first time whether the character's name echoes the philosopher's by
Jones's intention.)

It's not that surprising that Hume would come up in a book on Romantic Poetry,
though. Or in many other humanities-oriented anglophone classes. Not only
has it been fashionable for at least a couple of decades to set things in
the philosophical context of their period, but David Hume wrote in what
would now be called a large number of periods. He also wrote with enormous
grace and charm.

For those of you who haven't read his work, Hume is rightly famous for his
major works on perception and ethics. I have a psychology friend and a philosopher
friend who work jointly on a neurological research project who tell me that
they regard Hume's work on perception as not only sound 18th century philosophy
but sound 18th century science. Actually, Hume was something of a leader
in both realms, so just saying "sound" is inadequate.

As an economist, I taught Hume's specie flow mechanism every time I taught
international finance-- it still lies at the core of that discipline. He
wrote other works in economics which I am too lazy to be familiar with yet.

Hume also published major works on religion and the history of England which
I have not read, and enormous quantities of esays on this and that.

He was a leader of the Scottish Enlightenment, along with his pal Adam Smith.*
Both of them, and Samuel Johnson, were members of The Club. Johnson couldn't
help liking Hume though he detested Scots generally and disliked Hume's
atheism. And Hume is widely held to have been an unusually douce (and moral)person.

He's one of the great Menschen in the history of the world, in my view,
and well worth reading. :D

Mary Ann
who also thinks the perceptions lit of the 18th century some of the most
valuable stuff she's ever read

* My friend Spencer Pack thinks Hume and Smith were lovers as well as friends,
but it's not that clear to me.

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