‘In a fascinating piece in this month’s Atlantic, UC Berkeley professor Alison Gopnik details her four year journey out of a mid-life crisis via David Hume and Buddhism. The just-turned-fifty Gopnik begins reading Buddhism, connects the religion’s ideas to those of the eighteenth century philosopher, then launches an ambitious research project driven by the question of how Hume came up with his philosophy that was “so profoundly at odds with the Western philosophy and religion of his day.”
Hume is most famous for his rejection of the idea of an inherent self. He also had gone through a psychological crisis. To help calm his nerves, he moved to small town in France and finished what would become one of the most substantial works of Western philosophy–A Treatise of Human Nature. Relying on the hunch that Hume would have had to have known something about Buddhist philosophy in order to write Treatise, Gopnik digs through archives and travels to Europe to discover that the Jesuit priests in that provincial French town had indeed heard of Buddhism and possibly even had copies of certain Tibetan texts. Although she admits that she can’t be certain, she determines that “Hume could indeed have known about Buddhist philosophy” at the time he wrote Treatise.
If true, this discovery would be remarkable because it’s widely assumed that Buddhism didn’t make it to the European continent until the nineteenth century.’
Source: Big Think