ROSEMARY Goring’s discussion (“Hume was a genius – to rub him out of history is wrong”, September 16) of the standing of David Hume reminded me that, when the David Hume Tower at Edinburgh University was newly open, freshers like me were told that the then Principal, Sir Edward Appleton, had insisted that the tower bear the great philosopher’s name because he was ashamed that in Hume’s lifetime the university authorities refused him a professorship.

Appleton saw the naming of the tower as an act of apology and attempt to exculpate the university of what he saw as centuries of shame. He recognised that Hume was not only a great thinker, but a campaigner for the right to think freely, a position in Hume’s day opposed – to summarise somewhat crudely – by the Evangelical wing of the Kirk. This tried and failed to excommunicate Hume in 1756. His rationality has served us over the years.

Now the university explores the idea of excommunicating Hume again. We might, of course, go further. Since Appleton named the Hume tower, perhaps Edinburgh should rename the Appleton tower of 1966, and the Nobel committee withdraw his 1947 Prize, and the Queen rescind his knighthood awarded in 1941, and the scientific community rename the layer in the atmosphere named after such a great scientist.

At what point in such a process would muddled thinking have achieved its zenith? No-one is going to defend Hume’s racist remark, even set against his world-changing contribution to humanity’s development. But historical context matters, too. One don’t stop performing Shakespeare because of his caricature of Jewishness in The Merchant of Venice or his offensive misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew.

It is an irony – I say no more – that Hume, a man whose contribution to freedom of thought was spurned in the 18th century by Edinburgh University, which last century sought to make amends, is in our century being spurned again by that institution. I suspect ‘le bon David’ would have laughed in scorn at such an irony.

Professor Ian Brown, Giffnock.

ROSEMARY Goring highlighted the dangers in universities trying to delete or alter history. Hume was greater than any Orwellian censorship.

I for one will stop my donations to the University’s Alumnus donation fund in protest. I will go on referring to the building as previously, it being forever the ‘DHT ‘. I am encouraged in this by remembering that though Vietnam’s repressive Communist regime renamed South Vietnam’s former capital as Ho Chi Minh City 45 years ago, nevertheless young and old in that city even now habitually call it Saigon.

Gus Logan, North Berwick.

THE decision to dishonour one of Scotland’s greatest figures, revered across the world since the 18th century for his genius in contributing to the intellectual stock of humanity, is both shameful and ridiculous.

Hume’s comments on the issue of race were a tiny part of his corpus, and were informed, or ill-informed, by the ignorance and prejudice of his age on such matters. He was, in general, however, one of the wisest, gentlest, and least malign spirits of his time. If anything, his stature as one of the greatest of philosophers anywhere and of any age is insufficiently recognised by his own country of Scotland by comparison, for example, with Kant and Germany.

Kant acknowledged his debt to Hume by saying that it was he who awakened him out of his ‘dogmatic slumbers’ and whose works are, in significant part, an attempt to address the issues Hume raised.

That such an outstanding and noble Scottish figure should be reduced to a small caricature by Edinburgh University is very sad. It is, perhaps, though in keeping with the University’s mistreatment of the man, for in 1745 it failed to award him the Chair of Moral Philosophy almost certainly because he was such an advanced thinker that they suspected him of atheism.

Its small-minded Presbyterianism of the time is now well matched by its equally small-minded, facile judgement of his stature according to the values and priorities of our own age in terms of the single issue of his brief comments on race.

On this basis, I await the removal of the unacceptable Shakespeare from the pantheon of literature for his obvious anti-semitism and other racism (why are there still performances of The Merchant of Venice?); and did not the outrageous Dante demonstrate egregious Islamophobia in placing a certain prophet at the very centre of his circles of Hell?

Stephen Smith, Glasgow G44.

IN a shocking defenestration of its academic raison d’être in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, Edinburgh University has announced that, ‘‘[it] has taken the decision to rename – temporarily until a full review is completed – one of the buildings in the central area campus’’. That building is the David Hume Tower and will now be known as 40 George Square. As a student I was taught to think before you speak, to think twice before you act and remember, in life every action has a reaction.

Doug Clark, Currie, Midlothian.