How pleased I was to come across Professor Downie
in your pages last week! Fifty four years ago, Professor Anton recruited the young Doctor Robin to educate us budding jurisprudes on that same, most interesting of topics, determinism and free will. As a result, I spent hours reading everything I could find on it, ranging from strange theological works to ideas on randomness and from time to time wondered if my presence in the old University Library was itself determined, as indeed must have been the views I was reading about.
I haven't worried about these things too much since, but looking back on various decisions I've made during my life can see that at least some and perhaps all of them were certainly determined; as indeed my writing this comment to the Scottish Review.
Sir Tom Devine
is right: by the standards of his day, David Hume couldn't have been condemned as 'a racist'. But that doesn't change the fact that, by the standards of our day, he can. So, perhaps we should dig up his bones and pillory them, on much the same pretext that Cromwell was dug up and posthumously beheaded. But that would be silly.
The issue is not whether or not David Hume can reasonably be called 'a racist'; he can and he can't, depending on which standards we apply. The issue, rather, is whether or not a public building should be or remain named after someone who, by the standards of our day, can be judged a racist, especially when such namings are generally meant to symbolically signal our values at least as much as they are intended to memorialise the name.
What does the 'David Hume Tower' say about us rather than David Hume? That's the question.
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