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Illogic and Metaphysics

David Hume is one of the great thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment that followed the 1707 Act of Union with the Auld Enemie – and, indeed, an important philosopher in the development of Western thought more generally.

I make no claim whatsoever to be particularly knowledgeable about the ideas or teachings of Hume, but I do think that he would, at the very least, cast a wry smile at one aspect of contemporary Edinburgian goings-on.

Just as in Verona, unrequited lovers venture to the statue of Shakespeare’s Juliet, to rub her tit, in hope of good fortune, so in Edinburgh, according to the Scotsman, those in pursuit of good luck – perhaps even wisdom ? – have taken to stroking the toe of a statue of Hume.

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(The sculptor) Mr Stoddart appeared both flattered and amused, pointing out that there were statues in the Vatican in Rome that no longer had any toes because they had been worn away by the adoration of the multitude.

However, he did not think David Hume, “the scourge of superstition and religiosity”, would approve of having his toe rubbed for luck.

“The great thing is that it’s so ironic that David Hume, who is the patron saint of all the atheists, should now have his toe adored,” he said..

So…. what does this mean?

Has irrationality and superstition overtaken the once upright and properly Calvinist citizens of Britain’s most beautiful city?

Is there an inherent need in humanity for faith in something beyond the purely material or rational?

Is it true that (in a quote often attributed to G. K. Chesterton – but which in fact was a summary of his views from a book review) “when people stop believing in God, they will believe in anything.”

Is this kind of toe-rubbing thing all just harmless fun?

Will more attention be lavished upon Greyfriars Bobby?

Where will this all end?

Is Scotland becoming more like Italy?

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