An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Front Cover
Cosimo, Inc., Dec 1, 2008 - Philosophy - 156 pages
85 Reviews
A man in a fit of anger, is actuated in a very different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. If you tell me, that any person is in love, I easily understand your meaning, and form a just conception of his situation; but never can mistake that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion. When we reflect on our past sentiments and affections, our thought is a faithful mirror, and copies its objects truly; but the colours which it employs are faint and dull, in comparison of those in which our original perceptions were clothed. It requires no nice discernment or metaphysical head to mark the distinction between them. -from "Of the Origin of Ideas" David Hume may well be the most significant philosopher ever to write in the English language: his arguments dramatically influenced both scientific and religious thinking, and much of what he wrote-particular concerning free will, political theory, and religion-still sounds startlingly modern. This 1748 treatise is the great thinker's thinking on thinking. What can we know, and how can we be sure we really know it? Is there ever any "truth" outside of what we experience inside our own heads? Does experience lead to knowledge, or does experience in fact foil and fool our understanding of the world? Deeply empiricist and skeptical, Hume's ideas continue to be reflected in everything from modern psychology to modern science fiction. His work remains essential reading for modern armchair philosophers. Scottish philosopher, historian, and essayist DAVID HUME (1711-1776) also wrote A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740) and An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751).
 

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Review: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

User Review  - Derek - Goodreads

I like Hume. He is a great writer (stylistically), he uses lots of examples, and he's perceptive. In this book, Hume provides a revision and clarification of the first books in the Treatise. Overall ... Read full review

Review: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

User Review  - Tarek Mallak - Goodreads

When first recommended to me, I was reluctant to read to skeptic from the 1700s. Now I only feel shame of my crude attitude. Definitely the father of skepticism Read full review

All 29 reviews »

Contents

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Copyright

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About the author (2008)

David Hume was born in Edinburgh to a minor Scottish noble family, raised at the estate of Ninewells, and attended the University of Edinburgh for two years until he was 15. Although his family wished him to study law, he found himself unsuited to this. He studied at home, tried business briefly, and after receiving a small inheritance traveled to France, settling at La Fleche, where Descartes had gone to school. There he completed his first and major philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739--40), published in three volumes. Hume claimed on the title page that he was introducing the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects, and further that he was offering a new way of seeing the limits of human knowledge. Although his work was largely ignored, Hume gained from it a reputation as a philosophical skeptic and an opponent of traditional religion. (In later years he was called "the great infidel.") This reputation led to his being rejected for professorships at both Edinburgh and Glasgow. To earn his living he served variously as the secretary to General St. Clair, as the attendant to the mad Marquis of Annandale, and as the keeper of the Advocates Library in Edinburgh. While holding these positions, he wrote and published a new version of his philosophy, the two Enquiries, and many essays on social, political, moral, and literary subjects. He also began his six-volume History of England from the Roman Invasion to the Glorious Revolution (1754--62), the work that made him most famous in his lifetime. Hume retired from public life and settled in Edinburgh, where he was the leading figure in Scottish letters and a good friend to many of the leading intellectuals of the time, including Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin. During this period, he completed the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which he had been working on for more than 25 years. Hume first worked on the Dialogues in the middle of his career, but put them aside as too provocative. In his last years he finished them and they were published posthumously in 1779. They are probably his best literary effort and have been the basis for continuous discussion and debate among philosophers of religion. Toward the end of Hume's life, his philosophical work began to be taken seriously, and the skeptical problems he had raised were tackled by philosophers in Scotland, France, and finally Germany, where Kant claimed that Hume had awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers. Hume was one of the most influential philosophers of modern times, both as a positive force on skeptical and empirical thinkers and as a philosopher to be refuted by others. Interpreters are still arguing about whether he should be seen as a complete skeptic, a partial skeptic, a precursor of logical positivism, or even a secret believer.

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