Canceling David Hume

The skeptical philosopher David Hume is one of the giants not just of the Enlightenment, but of the whole history of philosophy. But that was not enough to save him from being canceled in his native Scotland. At the instance of “woke” students, who wallow in incorrigible ignorance, David Hume Tower at the University of Edinburgh was re-named “40 George Square.” Hume’s offense was that, while he opposed slavery, there is a footnote in a 1758 essay where he wrote that he was “apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites.”

Now comes the good news: the University’s donors are not as benighted as the school’s students and administrators: ‘Cancel culture’ backfires as donors pull cash from Edinburgh University.

The University of Edinburgh has seen its donations slump by almost £2 million after it “cancelled” the philosopher David Hume over his slavery links.

The institution said that 24 donations and 12 legacies had been “cancelled, amended or withdrawn” in response to the September 2020 renaming of a prominent campus building dedicated to its former student, one of the leading figures of the Scottish enlightenment.
The David Hume Tower was rechristened 40 George Square with the university claiming that while Hume’s opinions were “not uncommon” when he wrote them more than 250 years ago, they “rightly cause distress today”.

I don’t believe that anyone was actually “distressed” by Hume’s footnote. I think today’s left-wing students are a vicious mob, cruising for victims. They are delighted to run across a stray comment that can provide fuel for their next auto-da-fé.

While it refused to say how much money had been withdrawn by donors directly due to the renaming row, overall donations to the university fell from £23.2 million in 2020-21, to £21.3 million the following year.

It would be good to see them fall further. Indeed, outside of a few select fields like engineering and medicine, it is hard to make a case that “higher education” confers a net benefit on society. As long as the current nonsense continues, donors to universities should seriously consider whether their money would do more good, or less harm, elsewhere.

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