Scottish Enlightenment

Hume: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

DavidHumeDialogues Concerning Natural Religion, by David Hume (1711-1776), was first published  in 1779. The choice of the dialogue form, modelled on Cicero, as well as its posthumous appearance, reflected the work's far reaching implications for contemporary religious authority.

The three central characters are Cleanthes, an 'experimental theist', typical of eighteenth century progressive theologians, Demea, a traditionalist mystic, and Philo, a radical sceptic, whose views are often taken to be closest to Hume's own. While there is some debate over whether Hume's position entailed strict athiesm, or allowed for some philsopophical conceptions of God such as deism, he is generally seen as hostile to organised religion.

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Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, edited by Henry D. Aitken (Hafner Library of Classics, 1948). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. HTML and other formats.

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Hume: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

David_Hume_RamsayAn Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is a 1751 work by David Hume, which developed the ethical philosophy first expounded in his Treatise on Human Nature. It is often known as as the Second Enquiry, to distinguish it from an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

While the classification of Hume's ethical position remains controversial, it can be described as sentamentalist, in rejecting the view that moral judgements can be founded on reason alone.

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Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1912). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: An Enquiry into the Principles of Morals. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. HTML and other formats.

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Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Painting_of_David_HumeAn Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is a 1748 work by David Hume. It is often known as the First Enquiry, as distinguished from the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Human Morals. Both works provide succinct accounts of aspects of the philosophy originally developed in Hume's Treatise on Human Nature.

The opening sections of the Enquiry offer a theory of knowledge which owes much to Locke, while making a clearer distinction between sense impressions and ideas. Hume's more fundamental departure was his conclusion that there was no rational justification for our making judgements about the world based on cause and effect, and that we do so simply out of custom and habit.

In the latter part of the book, Hume applied his scepticism to a variety of metaphysical and religious beliefs, concluding however with a chapter recommending the approach of the more moderate Academic sceptics among the ancients, rather than that of the more radical Pyrrhonians.

He ends with a paragraph whose precise significance, as a criterion of truth or of meaningfulness, has been much debated by later analytic philosophers:

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

A Enquiry Concering Human Understanding at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Selections from A Treatise of Human Nature (1907). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, with works by Locke and Berkeley. (Great Books of the Western World edition, 1937). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. HTML and other formats.

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Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature

David_Hume_EsqrA Treatise of Human Nature, published in three books in 1739-40, was the first major philosophical work by David Hume, who famously said that it 'fell dead-born from the press', leading him to recast his ideas in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Hume's mature philosophy was nevertheless substantively that of the Treatise, which sought to put philosophy on an experimental basis like that of the physical sciences, rejecting metaphysical speculation as futile. It includes Hume's first account of his famous problem of induction, arguing that our belief in cause and effect is based on habit rather than rational justification. It was this sceptical attack which Kant later said ' first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a completely different direction.'

A Treatise of Human Nature at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: A Treatise of Human Nature, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: A Treatise of Human Nature. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: A Treatise of Human Nature Vol I | Vol II. Everyman's Library edition. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: A Treatise of Human Nature. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Treatise of Human Nature. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: David Hume. Melvyn Bragg with Peter Millican, Helen Beebee and James Harris.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: David Hume (1711-1776) - Hume on Causation.

Librivox - A Treatise of Human Nature, Vol I | Vol II - public domain audiobook.

PhilPapers: Hume - A Treatise of Human Nature - bibliography with open access option.

Philosophy Bites: Paul Russell on David Hume's Philosophy of Irreligion. Podcast with Nigel Warburton.

Physics Today: Albert Einstein to Moritz Schlick - comments on the influence of the Treatise on the theory of relativity.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: David Hume - Kant and Hume on Causality.

Wikipedia: David Hume - A Treatise of Human Nature.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

Hume: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Kant: Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant: Prologomena to Any Future Metaphysics.