David Hume (1711 – 1776) was a Scottish philosopher who promoted skepticism and empiricism. He argued that people can only know that which they experience. Therefore, human experience is the only way we can get to the truth of what exists. He denied God’s existence since he could not sense or experience God. Many of his contemporaries denounced his writings as works of scepticism and atheism.
Hume’s major philosophical works — A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), as well as the posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) — remain influential.
Hume began writing the treatise at the age of sixteen, finishing the work ten years later. Although many scholars today consider it to be Hume’s most important work and one of the most important books in the history of philosophy, the public in Britain did not at first agree. Hume himself described the (lack of) public reaction by writing that the book “fell dead-born from the press”.
The work contains contains the following sections:
- Book 1: “Of the Understanding” – An investigation into human cognition.
- Book 2: “Of the Passions” – A treatment of emotions and free will.
- Book 3: “Of Morals” – A treatment of moral ideas, justice, obligations, benevolence.
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