David Hume (1711 -1776)

This is the second of my new  series of occasional philosophy blogs.  As regular readers will know, I am studying for a certificate in the subject this year.  I started with an Aries, Rene Descartes, a true Aries in every sense of the word, an individual and an initiator.  I will now look at a philosopher of the next sign Taurus, whose philosophy is as Taurean as Descartes’ was Arien!  David Hume’s work was known as Empiricism, based on the evidence of the senses, a counterpoint to rationalism as expounded by Descartes.  Together they form two basic pillars of modern philosophy.

Birth Chart

Hume had half his planets (5) in Earth, and over half his planets (6) in the Fixed signs, so you could describe him as very grounded and strong willed.  His Sun was in Taurus, and he argued that rather than reason the questions of existence through the mind (as Descartes had done) it was important to trust the evidence of the senses (Taurus).  As with Descartes, we do not have a birth time, and so our information is incomplete.  But his Moon was also in an Earth sign, again emphasizing the material.  His Mercury was closely sextile with his Saturn, indicating mental focus.  Descartes had Mercury trine Saturn, and Nietzsche had Mercury trine Saturn – I have not yet undertaken an exhaustive study of this feature, but it seems to be an advantage in an analytical philosophical perspective.  Hume had lovable Venus (his ruling planet) trine his natal North Node (karmic mission), and is one of the most likeable and popular of the modern philosophers.  Jupiter trine Uranus gave him the Entrepreneur Archetype, and he was very prolific and successful and varied in his activities.  Jupiter trine Pluto gave him a sense of power and confidence, too.  Uranus exactly conjunct Pluto in Leo produced a great deal of intense energy.  He was very Taurean (Sun, Mercury and Neptune in Taurus) in another particular respect: he was portly in build in his adult years, and had a fondness for port and cheese!

Life and Career

David Hume was a philosopher from the United Kingdom (Scotland).  France and Germany also produced prominent philosophers in the early modern era.  German philosopher Immanuel Kant was quoted as saying that Hume aroused him from his “dogmatic slumbers”.  His first work was “A Treatise of Human Nature”, written 1739 – 1740.  He posited that all human knowledge derived from experience, and thus pitted him against the philosophical rationalists, and Descartes in particular. Philosophy was moving on by one sign!  He admitted that sentiment played a part in the thinking process, whereas for Descartes it played no part.

History and Freedom

The concept of freedom was important to David Hume, as an intrinsic part of human life and make up, and makes up a complex theme in his discussions.  Freedom is an important part of the process of self-realization.  The term free will is often referred to in relation to self-determination, and in many instances in relation to the presence or absence of a deity. The associated concept liberty tends to refer to the more outward experience in relation to society.  Liberty as an outward expression especially related to society and politics, was largely a later expansion of Hume’s work into the themes of history (his History of England established his success), politics, and social science.

Hume was heavily influenced by John Locke (1632-1704), and both had an influence on the ideas which lead to the American (1776) and French (1789) Revolutions.  He was also a great friend of Adam Smith.  Locke was himself influenced by Hobbes (1588-1679), particularly in his assertion that the power of will is desire.  Locke’s own work on freedom was entitled An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, so even in the title of his work Hume was continuing the discussion. Locke looked at issues of volition and free will before Hume, and distinguished between voluntary and involuntary actions, but continually revised his work on the subject of freedom.  Hume took up the baton, and further defined the line between voluntary and involuntary action in describing what is free and not free: “By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.” ((Enquiry, Pg. 85).  He shows that there are many complex factors which go to make up volition, including the passions, and looks at motives.  In this again he departed from the purely rational outlook of Descartes.

Though Hume tended to an atheist view, he recognized that the concept of freedom, particularly in relation to free will and determinism, has to be considered in relation to the concept of a possible Creator, and tried to remain neutral in that discussion, though did not give it central stage in his considerations.  His views on freedom held solidly for a considerable time in the history of philosophy making, and were dignified by Wittgenstein as late as the 20th Century.  There is some modification in the view of his work in the more modern era, but he was as groundbreaking as Descartes in the sense that he held the empirical counterpoise to rationalism, and maintained that passion needed to be acknowledged as well as reason.

Now I am off to find a Geminian philosopher, to represent the next sign of the zodiac!


  1. Hume. Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2017.
  2. The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Ed. John Cottingham. 10th printing, Cambridge; 2005.
  3. The Cambridge Companion to Hume’s Treatise. Eds. Ainslie and Butler; 2015.
  4. Paul Russell. Freedom & Moral Sentiment. Oxford University Press; 1995.
  5. Simon Blackburn. How to Read Hume.
  6. Dan Garrett. Hume. Routledge ; 2015.
  7. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, online
  8. A.J. Ayer. Hume, A Very Short Introduction; 1980.
  9. Thomas Pink. Free Will, A Very Short Introduction; 2004.


Mercury Direct re-enters Pisces tomorrow (Monday 16th), until 11th April.  The mental focus is on compassion, as applied to the most vulnerable in our society.  At this time, the elderly are most at risk from the coronavirus, and there is a lot of focus on areas which have a large elderly population, as well as the elderly members of our own family.  Plus those who have underlying health conditions such as asthma are also extra vulnerable.  There are signs already that hearts are going out to help, and there is much talk about communities coming together, and world nations co-operating.  Pisces and its ruler Neptune represent isolation and self-isolation, but they also represent hearts blending and barriers dissolving, paradoxically.  The brother and sister duo on Gogglebox this week commented that we’ve exchanged an insular focus (Brexit) for a global worry (coronavirus), which they thought was cool.  Australian healer Charlie Goldsmith on Facebook live says that the current crisis is teaching us to go back to basics, and is an opportunity for mass change.

Skip to Thursday (19th) and there is a stabilizing sextile between the Sun and Saturn.  Practical initiatives and the laying of foundations thrive under this sextile.  Perhaps there are ideas you have had which were more suited to the springtime, and you can prepare for them now.  What new routines and traditions would you like to initiate now in  your life?

Friday (20th) sees the start of Spring itself, the Spring Equinox.  New life and green shoots may start to appear, though the date itself is a day or two earlier than usual for the calendar.  Happy Astrological New Year!  And Happy Birthday to all Ariens for the coming month – we celebrate your life force.  For the population generally, if your energy has been a little low lately, you may feel revived.  When I was last in Salisbury, I attended a talk on wildflower meadows and their importance to cultivating different insect species, as well as their obvious beauty.  So it’s a good time to sow…

Late morning, Mars conjuncts Jupiter at 22 degrees Capricorn, bringing the combination of energy and enthusiasm to a peak.  There’s a lot that can be achieved by this high energy, combined with the Spring Equinox.  It is worth planning something special to begin on this date, though of course we are restricted in our activities currently by the social rules imposed to keep the coronavirus graph low.  If you have to stay local or self-isolate, use your ingenuity to cultivate a new hobby or project.  The exuberance of this conjunction when found in a birth chart can give rise to comedy genius (in the case of Tracey Ullman) or an upbeat song such as “Happy” (in the case of Pharrell Williams).

The week in bullet points:

  • Tomorrow – mental focus on compassion
  • Thursday – a foothold on stability
  • Friday – new beginning; exuberance