The Sunday Times recently asked me to nominate a piece of art that I found inspirational. I went for one of the most annoying statues ever. Discover why after the break.
David Hume was one of the world’s greatest philosophers. One of his most famous works deals with superstition, with Hume arguing that philosophical reason can act as an ‘antidote’ to superstitious thinking and religious belief.
In 1997, the good folk of Edinburgh arranged for a wonderful nine foot statue of Hume to be positioned on the High Street. That’s good.
However, the sculptor, Sandy Stoddar, deliberately stuck Hume’s big toe out over the plinth so that the public would be tempted to touch it. That’s OK, I guess.
Then, for the past few years, philosophy students from all around the world have made pilgrimages to the statue to rub Hume’s big toe, in the hope that this will bring them good luck in their exams. That is bad, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Hume would have hated it.
Not only that, the volume of touching is now having a serious effect on the statue, such that Hume runs the risk of losing a toe.
So, here is my plan. We all start a rumour that touching the toe brings bad luck, and that many of the people who have rubbed it have failed their exams and died in mysterious circumstances. Let’s fight superstition with superstition and help restore Hume’s dignity in his hour of need.