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Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals [Paperback]

David Hume , P. H. Nidditch , L. A. Selby-Bigge
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 23.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 Jun 1975
Reprinted from the posthumous edition of 1777 and edited with introduction, comparative tables of contents, and analytical index by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Third edition with text revised and notes by P. H. Nidditch.

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Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals + A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 3 edition (12 Jun 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019824536X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198245360
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 12.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The standard text of Hume's Enquiries. Thanks for keeping it available."--Adam Potkay, College of William and Mary"Good clear text with helpful notes and index."--John S. Brabowski, Catholic University of America

About the Author

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian, as well as an important figure of Western philosophy and of the Scottish Enlightenment.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hume at his best 21 Dec 2005
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
David Hume was perhaps the leading light in the Empiricist movement in philosophy. Empiricism is seen in distinction from Rationalism, in that it doubts the viability of universal principles (rational or otherwise), and uses sense data as the basis of all knowledge - experience is the source of knowledge. Hume was a skeptic as well as empiricist, and had radical (for the time) atheist ideas that often got in the way of his professional advancement, but given his reliance on experience (and the kinds of experiences he had), his problem with much that was considered conventional was understandable.
Hume's major work, 'A Treatise of Human Nature', was not well received intially - according to Hume, 'it fell dead-born from the press'. Hume reworked the first part of this work in a more popular way for this text, which has become a standard, and perhaps the best introduction to Empiricism.
In a nutshell, the idea of empiricism is that experience teaches, and rules and understanding are derived from this. However, for Hume this wasn't sufficient. Just because billiard balls when striking always behave in a certain manner, or just because the sun always rose in the morning, there was no direct causal connection that could be automatically affirmed - we assume a necessary connection, but how can this be proved?
Hume's ideas impact not only metaphysics, but also epistemology and psychology. Hume develops empiricism to a point that empiricism is practically unsupportable (and it is in this regard that Kant sees this text as a very important piece, and works toward his synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism). For Hume, empirical thought requires skepticism, but leaves it unresolved as far as what one then needs to accept with regard to reason and understanding.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 21 Feb 2014
By riad
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant book, very well structured, thorough, a smooth read and very engaging, I very much recommend it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 16 Jan 2014
By Jessica
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is both an interesting and insightful book, bought it for my philosophy course that I am doing, came in good condition.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
David Hume is a man of his times revolutionising how we think about knowledge. This text finally removes the need for God in philosophy and introduces a new and complete theory as regards how the human mind functions with some of the most significant epistemological arguments ever raised. Special interest should be taken in his chapter "Of Miracles" that could well disprove any certainty in the claim that a miracle has occurred. A great book from a man who is almost certainly the greatest philosopher to ever have written in English.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Edition of Two Philosophical Masterworks 26 May 2004
By ctdreyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Hume's Enquiries are more or less a repackaging of the material from Books I and III of his earlier A Treatise of Human Nature. Ever desirous of literary fame and dismayed by the lack of interest others had shown for his prior tome, Hume went back to the drawing board and attempted to present his philosophical system in a way that would be palatable to the reading public. We should feel fortunate that he did so. For, though the significant changes are in style and emphasis rather than substance, these books are a perfect introduction to Hume's thinking. And while the shorter form did require some not insignificant cutting, most of what you find in the earlier book is presented here in a simpler, more accessible manner. That's not to say that there is nothing new here; there is. In particular, he considers some religious subjects (i.e. miracles and immortality) that he was unwilling to broach in the earlier work.
The connecting thread here is an emphasis on grounding philosophical inquiry in an empirical account of human nature, and particularly of the human mind. The first Enquiry is an account of Hume's take on the implications of the classical empiricism he inherited from Locke and Berkeley. For Hume, as for the other classical empiricists, empiricism was primarily a psychological theory about the origin and content of our concepts. (So empiricism, Hume thought, is a crucial element of any plausible account of the human mind.) The central tenet of this theory is that our concepts are furnished by experience, which includes both sensory experience and introspection (i.e., the experience of our own mental states). And the empiricists also agreed about the way we can justify our beliefs. Some beliefs are true (or false) in virtue of the ideas they contained, and we can know their truth (or falsity) simply by thinking about them; other beliefs are true (or false) in virtue of how the external world is, and we can know their truth (or falsity) only by drawing on our experiences of the world. According to Hume, all substantial conclusions about the world fall into this second category. That is, the truth (or falsity) of all substantial claims about the existence and nature of things in the external world can be discovered only by checking those claims against the evidence of our senses.
Here we seem Hume wielding this philosophy of mind in order to adjudicate disputes in metaphysics and epistemology. Do you want to know whether something can be known? Then think about the concepts in which it is expressed. Could we come to know this by thinking about the meaning of our concepts? Could we come to know it by going and looking or doing certain empirical tests? If the answer to both these questions is no, then knowledge of this subject is an impossibility for us. Do you want to know whether some claim of the metaphysicians is true or whether it even makes sense? Consider the concepts they use to express their views. Is there any way you could reduce the content of this concept to some experience? If not, their claims are literally meaningless.
This interpretation of Hume's project downplays his skepticism and emphasizes his professed intentions to provide a positive account of the operation of the human mind that appealed to nothing beyond the evidence of our senses. According to proponents of this interpretation, Hume is most interested in a description of the operation of the human mind. He's describing what human nature allows us to know and what it doesn't allow us to know. Furthermore, he argues that our nature is such that, where it fails to provide us with the resources to acquire the knowledge we might want, it provides us with a natural habit of forming the right conclusions anyway. Even though our nature limits our knowledge of the world, it ensures that we possess the habits of mind needed to make our way in the world. Hume dubs all these habits of mind "custom."
And I think this naturalistic interpretation of Hume's project provides an entry into the views he defends in the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. Again, it's possible to interpret Hume's project in moral philosophy as a skeptical one. The fact that he thinks morality is based in human sentiments show that he is, in some sense, a subjectivist about morality. He doesn't think there is any plausible account of our moral thinking as based on reason or empirical inquiry alone. Morality, then, is more a matter of feeling than a matter of thinking, observing, and reasoning. But, importantly, Hume doesn't think this is indicative of some problem with morality, and so he doesn't understand himself to be undermining ordinary morality. His aim is to expose the groundless pretensions of reason in order to make room for a wholly naturalistic account morality; it's not to show that morality doesn't have a firm basis. For he does not think that morality would ideally be based on reason and empirical evidence rather than sentiment. Rather, he thinks there is a sort of philosophical overreaching involved in trying to base morality on reason or empirical evidence as opposed to sentiment.
But what is the relevant sentiment? According to Hume, it is a general sort of benevolence, of concern for others. Our possessing such a feeling does not mean that we'll always set aside our own interest in the interest of others; nor does it mean that we are not largely self-interested. It does, however, mean that we're not wholly self-interested, as we are motivated to do (and not do) certain things even when they do not affect our own interests and desires. But what inspires these sentiments, and how exactly do they translate into moral judgments? Morality, Hume argues, is based on sentiments of approbation and disapprobation that are prompted by a recognition of the connection between human actions, dispositions, etc. and what is in the best interest of oneself and of mankind in general. What we take to be virtues, Hume argues, are those dispositions that lead a person to perform actions tending to promote his own happiness and the happiness of others, whereas vices are dispositions that do the opposite.
5.0 out of 5 stars Must 29 Jan 2014
By Deliesha Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must read, great for philosophy majors. A awesome basis for learning philosophy. Buy it now you won't regret it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles 23 Jan 2013
By Erik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really liked the book. Got what i expected and at the time I needed it. I definitely recommend it!
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hume at his best 10 Oct 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
David Hume was perhaps the leading light in the Empiricist movement in philosophy. Empiricism is seen in distinction from Rationalism, in that it doubts the viability of universal principles (rational or otherwise), and uses sense data as the basis of all knowledge - experience is the source of knowledge. Hume was a skeptic as well as empiricist, and had radical (for the time) atheist ideas that often got in the way of his professional advancement, but given his reliance on experience (and the kinds of experiences he had), his problem with much that was considered conventional was understandable.

Hume's major work, 'A Treatise of Human Nature', was not well received intially - according to Hume, 'it fell dead-born from the press'. Hume reworked the first part of this work in a more popular way for this text, which has become a standard, and perhaps the best introduction to Empiricism.

In a nutshell, the idea of empiricism is that experience teaches, and rules and understanding are derived from this. However, for Hume this wasn't sufficient. Just because billiard balls when striking always behave in a certain manner, or just because the sun always rose in the morning, there was no direct causal connection that could be automatically affirmed - we assume a necessary connection, but how can this be proved?

Hume's ideas impact not only metaphysics, but also epistemology and psychology. Hume develops empiricism to a point that empiricism is practically unsupportable (and it is in this regard that Kant sees this text as a very important piece, and works toward his synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism). For Hume, empirical thought requires skepticism, but leaves it unresolved as far as what one then needs to accept with regard to reason and understanding. According to scholar Eric Steinberg, 'A view that pervades nearly all of Hume's philosophical writings is that both ancient and modern philosophers have been guilty of optimistic and exaggerated claims for the power of human reason.'

Some have seen Hume as presenting a fundamental mistrust of daily belief while recognising that we cannot escape from some sort of framework; others have seen Hume as working toward a more naturalist paradigm of human understanding. In fact, Hume is open to a number of different interpretations, and these different interpretations have been taken up by subsequent philosphers to develop areas of synthetic philosophical ideas, as well as further developments more directly out of Empiricism (such as Phenomenology).

This is in fact a rather short book, a mere 100 pages or so in many editions. As a primer for understanding Hume, the British Empiricists (who include Hobbes, Locke, and Berkeley), as well as the major philosphical concerns of the eighteenth century, this is a great text with which to start.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! A great classic literary achievement . 28 Sep 1998
By ATask07@aol.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If sceptical thought has evolved since Socrates this book is the evidence. Hume perhaps sets the standard for all philosophical inquiry that is scholarly and brilliant. The subject matter I found most illuminating and delightful to read was on moral distinctions (right and wrong). This is serious stuff. If you take the time to understand Hume, you certainly will not be wasting your time.
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