These philosophers organized their thoughts in similar environments. The relationship between the republic of Athens and the Republic of the United Provinces is easily evident; whereas the British Empire is inspired much more by the Roman Empire at the time of Julius Cesar. However, Hume was part of an important movement in Great Britain that pressed toward more democracy, greater freedom of thought, more justice for all, and an Industrial Revolution directed by merchants and industrialists. They preferred the Roman Republic of Cicero.
The ethics of a philosopher has been summarized by Kant (1784) as a refusal to accept any form of tutelage on his thoughts, be it internal (the passions) or external (censorship). Socrates, Spinoza, and Hume all refused to integrate the gods of their society into their philosophy while remaining models of independent, dignified, ethical, and moral behavior. They are icons for all the atheistic and lay movements that fashioned democratic thought. Socrates and Hume, above all, are also personalities who made public their capacity to die with dignity, without having recourse to the folklore of religious rituals.18
For these philosophers, an enlightened freedom of thought is a shared phenomenon. It refers not only to the notions but also to the methods used in an inquiry. It consists of making one’s speculations accessible to everyone, appreciating a dialogue with all who criticize (positively or negatively) these thoughts, and communicating how we react to the thoughts of others. Only in this way does following our intimate convictions lead to an enlightened social construction of ideas instead of a sectarian derivative. In the domain of collegiality, Hume was an example of generosity during his lifetime.19
This ethical stance was taken up by the scientific movements. It distinguishes the scientists from those who used science to advocate a dogmatic materialism
KANT DECREES THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF MAKING PRONOUNCEMENTS ABOUT THE GREAT DOGMATIC METAPHYSICAL PREOCCUPATIONS The Critique of Pure Reason Resonates with An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding I openly confess, the suggestion of David Hume was the very thing, which many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber, and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy quite a new direction. (Kant, 1783, Prolegomena, Preface) That sensation is a momentary flash is proved by introspection. But a momentary sensation is but the reflex of a momentary thing. It can seize neither what preceded nor what follows.