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University of Edinburgh under fire after the tower was renamed to commemorate David Hume


The University of Edinburgh has come under fire after renaming an 18th-century tower named after the 18th-century philosopher David Hume because of its ties to slavery.

The David Hume Tower will now be known as 40 George Square, the university confirmed under pressure from activists, although less than 2,000 signatures were collected in a petition.

The campaign to rename the tower began in July at the height of global protests following the assassination of George Floyd in the United States.

Dr. Felix Waldmann, a former professor from Edinburgh now at Cambridge University, described Hume as "outrageously racist" after discovering a previously unknown letter the philosopher wrote to encourage his patron to buy a plantation.

This resulted in the petition demanding action from the university over its links to Hume while using "racist epithets".

However, the university's decision to rename the tower has sparked anger, with academics and politicians leading the backlash.

Neil O'Brien, Conservative MP from Harborough, Leicestershire, wrote: “The University of Edinburgh has canceled the great philosopher of the Enlightenment, David Hume. What a cowardly, stupid, cowardly, pathetic, spineless, stupid thing. Shame on them. & # 39;

Leading historian Sir Tom Devine, professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, said last night: "The current director of the University of Edinburgh (Peter Mathieson) should hang his head in utter disgrace."

The University of Edinburgh confirmed that it has renamed its tower in memory of the 18th century philosopher David Hume because of its links to slavery

Dr. Felix Waldmann, a former professor from Edinburgh who is now at Cambridge University, called Hume "outrageously racist" after discovering a previously unknown letter the philosopher wrote to encourage his patron to buy a plantation

Dr. Felix Waldmann, a former professor from Edinburgh who is now at Cambridge University, called Hume "outrageously racist" after discovering a previously unknown letter the philosopher wrote to encourage his patron to buy a plantation

Sir Tom said that if he was still employed at the university I would have fought this decision with all my might.

He added that history students are taught "never to indulge in the intellectual sin of anachronistic judgment – that is, never impose today's values ​​on those of the past".

Sir Tom also said that Hume was "the greatest philosophical mind Scotland has ever produced".

& # 39; In the year of David Hume's reported letter about the plantations, there is no evidence that groups in Scotland spoke out against slavery in the colonies. In that sense, Hume was a man of his time, no better and no worse than any other Scot at the time.

"By the criterion of that stupid decision, the whole of Scotland deserves moral condemnation at this time."

Asanga Welikala, lecturer in public law at Edinburgh University and co-organizer of the Keith Forum on Commonwealth Constitutionalism, said: “I do not agree with this decision.

& # 39; David Hume's thoughts have inspired me throughout my 20-year career as I worked to advance constitutional democracy in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

"As an employee of the University of Edinburgh, I was not consulted here."

Another reviewer added, “I don't see how to turn down David Hume – whose racist views are not what he's known for; Views that are consistent with his intellectual milieu are said to improve the lives of black people today. & # 39;

"Reason is and should only be the slave of passions": the philosophy of David Hume, who rejected religion and wrote "racist epithets".

David Hume (1711-1776) was a British philosopher (picture, statue in Edinburgh)

David Hume (1711-1776) was a British philosopher (picture, statue in Edinburgh)

David Hume (1711-1776) is one of the most important British philosophers, best known for his work on skepticism and philosophical empiricism.

In a treatise on human nature (1739-40), Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, concluding that no theory of reality is possible and that there can be knowledge of anything beyond experience.

Hume believed that passions, not reason, determine human behavior and proclaimed that "reason is and should only be the slave of passions".

His views on the philosophy of religion, including his rejection of miracles and the argument of shaping the existence of God, were also particularly controversial for their time.

Though Hume's views on slavery were ambiguous, he maintained that human races existed and that non-whites are inferior to whites.

The passage from Essays, Moral, Political and Literary reads: “I suspect that negroes are inherently inferior to whites.

“There has never been a civilized nation of a skin color other than white, nor a person who played a prominent role in action or speculation.

& # 39; No brilliant manufacturer among them, no arts, no sciences.

On the other hand, the most rude and barbaric whites, like the old German, today's Tatars, still have something significant about them, in their bravery, form of government, or some other peculiarity.

“Such a uniform and constant difference could not occur in so many countries and age groups if nature had not originally differentiated between these human races.

“Not to mention our colonies, there are negro slaves scattered across Europe, none of whom have ever seen symptoms of ingenuity. Although lowly people without education will start among us and will excel in any profession.

In Jamaica they actually speak of a Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely that he will be admired for lean performance, like a parrot speaking a few words clearly. & # 39;

A second added: “I am skeptical that the University of Edinburgh has ample evidence that a building was named after the famous 18th-century Enlightenment philosopher David Hume who“ distressed ”contemporary students.

& # 39; That sounds like an imaginary projection of hypothetical distress.

While the philosopher Christina Sommers said: “My God. David Hume is canceled. Shame on U of Edinburgh. & # 39;

The university said it was renaming the tower after an investigation involving its Committee on Equality and Diversity and its Subcommittee on Racial Equality and Anti-Racism.

It said its work has been "energized" since George Floyd's death in the US in May and the campaigns of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A statement said: “It is important that campuses, curricula and communities reflect both contemporary and historical diversity of the university and address its institutional legacy around the world.

& # 39; For this reason, the university has decided to temporarily rename one of the buildings in the central area of ​​the campus until a full review is completed. From the start of the new academic year, the David Hume Tower will be known as 40 George Square.

"The interim decision was made because of the sensitivity of asking students to use a building named after the 18th-century philosopher whose comments on racial issues, although not uncommon at the time, rightly cause distress today."

The university said the decision was made before a "more detailed review of the university's links with the past" and the work addressed "many other issues beyond naming buildings."

Dr. Waldmann, a former David Hume Fellow at the university, discovered a previously unknown letter written by Hume in 1766 and encouraged his patron Lord Hertford to buy a plantation in Grenada.

He also wrote to Victor-Thérèse Charpentier, the French governor of Martinique, on behalf of his friend John Stewart, a wine merchant, and loaned Stewart £ 400 in early 1766.

Records of a Stewart plantation in the National Library of Jamaica indicate that it had 42 slaves by November 1767.

Dr. Waldmann said, “Anyone with Hume's talents would see the obvious enormity of slavery.

& # 39; But Hume advocated slavery; in fact, he justified it. & # 39;

Hume is celebrated for his contributions to the Scottish Enlightenment and is best known for his work on skepticism.

In a treatise on human nature (1739-40), Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, concluding that no theory of reality is possible and that there can be knowledge of anything beyond experience.

Hume believed that passions, not reason, determine human behavior and proclaimed that "reason is and should only be the slave of passions".

His views on the philosophy of religion, including his rejection of miracles and the argument of shaping the existence of God, were particularly controversial for their time.

Though Hume's views on slavery were ambiguous, he maintained that human races existed and that non-whites are inferior to whites.

The passage from Essays, Moral, Political and Literary reads, "I suspect that negroes are inherently inferior to whites."

& # 39; Rename David Hume Tower at UoE & # 39 ;: Online petition complete

David Hume wrote racist epithets that are not worth repeating here.

An online petition calls for the David Hume Tower to be renamed

An online petition calls for the David Hume Tower to be renamed

“Naming the most widespread building on campus after Hume sends a very clear message to BIPOC students in Edinburgh that we are willing to overlook this racism for the sake of alumni fame.

“However, we shouldn't boast about Edinburgh's racist alumni, especially given the institution's long history of engaging in eugenics and phrenology.

“However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ending racism in Edinburgh.

& # 39; The university should take big steps to further support BIPOC on campus and provide resources.

“Nobody wants us to remove David Hume from history. However, we should not promote a man who advocates white supremacy.

“This is mutually exclusive with the aim of reducing the harm caused by racism at the University of Edinburgh to students of color.

"We can take Hume's writings and see them in context, but there's no reason the tallest building on campus should be named after him."

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