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HALL OF FAMEon 23 December 2005
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.
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on 27 March 2002
Bound by necessity to start with the evident, I must say that Hume's Enquiry constitutes indeed a display of philosophical genius. Definitely a far more mature work than his Treatise on Human Nature (of which the reading I nevertheless do recommend), its principal qualities are its rigor of structure, the solidity of its arguments and the eloquent style through which Hume captivates the reader in such a way that the density of content is hardly perceptible.
Yet beware, as even though the style is to be revered, in the domain of philosophy it is the quality of content that constitutes the main criterion for judging a text. Yet neither in this sphere does Hume leave anything to be desired.
The leading thread of the argumentation is Hume's conception of the process of knowledge acquisition, but all through the book you'll find passages dealing with a variety of topics, from "writing theory" to 18th century theology and ethical debates.
On the first section Hume distinguishes between two types of philosophy, the distinction of which is based more on the style that characterises each of them and to the public they are addressed to than on their content.
The sections from two to five present a concise presentation of Hume's empiricist conception of the process of learning, which owes much to Locke's views on the topic (see Locke, an Essay Concerning Human Understanding) but can be said to constitute an "improvement" on his predecessor's thought.
Sections six to nine also deal with Hume's conception of learning and human knowledge, but this part differs from the previous one (sections two to five) in that it no longer consists on an explanation of the process of acquisition of knowledge, but rather of the consequences of this process. Put in a different way, sections two to five are a presentation of the genealogy of human knowledge, while sections six to nine deal more with the implications of such a genealogy. Sections ten and eleven are a presentation of the idea that religion and religious beliefs are not rational. This part has the aim not of discrediting religion, but rather of showing that it cannot be founded on reason, only on faith, and so that reasonable knowledge cannot be founded in religion, but only in reason and matter of fact.
Finally, section twelve is a presentation of the kind of scepticism to which Hume adheres on the basis of his conception of human knowledge and its boundaries.
As I said, to Hume's text I give five stars, but to edition itself I'm tempted to give three. I actually hesitate between three and four. The actual physical book is wonderful: excellent paper and ink quality, very nice typography, extremely useful numbering of the paragraphs (for those who really want to explore the text and its internal structure and articulations).
My main problem is actually that Oxford University Press of course a prestigious editing house, so I expected the most brilliant and enlightening notes, and was hence somewhat deceived (but should I give it only three stars simply because it being Oxford my expectations were higher than they would have been had it been published by a smaller editing house? -I'm tempted to say yes.
Do not get me wrong, its not that the notes are entirely useless, but they are somewhat basic to readers with a philosophical formation (even a basic one, as mine is), and some of the notes are even there only to explain the meaning of non-philosophical terms that even I, as a non-native English speaker, could understand.
Nevertheless, and on a more positive note, it does have an extensive introduction that, though somewhat basic, can still be useful. Thus I reconsider and change my mind. I give the text 5 stars. To the Oxford Edition, in terms of content 4 stars, and in terms of material/physical quality 5 stars.
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on 24 December 1997
This book was written in 1748 and I must say it certainly humbled me to realize that modern philosophical concerns are neither new nor unique. Terminology may have changed since the time when this book was written, but the underlying deliberations and contemplations remain unchanged. Hume's first 100 pages discuss the experiential foundation of knowledge. His arguments are compelling, but too enduring. The final 45 pages are superb. In these pages, Hume presents his treatises on miracles and academic skepticism and I must admit that it is one of the best discussions on practical skepticism that I have had the pleasure of reading.
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on 4 March 2015
I enjoyed this so much, I am actually going to buy the original - Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. Hume himself spent the rest of his life claiming to hate that book, written in the enthusiasm of his youth. This book was supposed to summarise his arguments in a much more "politically correct" way for back then. This book is extremely interesting, and Hume's writing on subjects like Miracles is absolutely superb. Written hundreds of years ago, it is still considered one of the most important books ever written in english.
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on 29 October 2002
The first but fundamental book published by Hume in 3 volumes (1 and 2 in 1739; 3 in 1740) dedicated to the methodical study of knowledge, passions, through experience and practical observation. It is with Hume that empiricism (following Locke and Berkeley) reaches its complete expression as a "modern" classical system, against previous dogmatic visions of philosophy. According to Kant, Hume awoke him from the dogmatic dream......
With Hume, english illustration comes to a definitive expression. Through his opus, empiricism is systematized and acquires a new dimension that expands its influence on all fields of philosophy. Previous conceptions about the theory of knowledge, ethics, politics, esthetics, and the philosophy of religion, all are transformed or renovated by Hume. In spite of his critics, Hume's system dwelled with different topics of modern interest: positivism, psychology, nominalism, critical skepticism, determinism, agnosticism, moral philosophy, political economy, etc.
No serious philosopher after Hume, has been able to avoid a careful look at his system. So if you are a student or scholar of the subject matter, I highly recommend this edition of Hume's seminal work.
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on 18 February 2015
a must read for anybody studying hume and empiricism.
In particular the section on "Of liberty and necessity" is my favorite compatibilist argument.
The foreword and annotations are excellent
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on 22 October 2002
This is a fair edition of the first but fundamental book published by Hume in 3 volumes (1 and 2 in 1739; 3 in 1740) dedicated to the methodical study of knowledge, passions and moral, through experience and practical observation. It is with Hume that empiricism (following Locke and Berkeley) reaches its complete expression as a "modern" classical system, against previous dogmatic visions of philosophy. According to Kant, Hume awoke him from the dogmatic dream......
With Hume, english illustration comes to a definitive expression. Through his opus, empiricism is systematized and acquires a new dimension that expands its influence on all fields of philosophy. Previous conceptions about the theory of knowledge, ethics, politics, esthetics, and the philosophy of religion, all are transformed or renovated by Hume. In spite of his critics, Hume's system dwelled with different topics of modern interest: positivism, psychology, nominalism, critical skepticism, determinism, agnosticism, moral philosophy, political economy, etc.
No serious philosopher after Hume, has been able to avoid a careful look at his system. So if you are a student or scholar of the subject matter, I highly recommend Hume's seminal work.
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on 5 June 2013
A perfect copy, in perfect condition and a really quick turnaround much appreciated. One, two, three, four, five more words.
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HALL OF FAMEon 8 February 2006
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).
The text of Hume is in fact a rather short book, a mere 100 pages or so in many editions (it is about 120 in this edition). 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.
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on 3 December 2012
This book looks at the weakness that we have in our abilities to understand our environment- it looks generally at human understanding. It is a very good introduction to the subject for a novice.
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