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Treatise of Human Nature (Great Books in Philosophy) [Paperback]

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Pages   639
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.45" Width: 5.42" Height: 1.56"
Weight:   1.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 1992
Publisher   Prometheus Books
ISBN  0879757434  
EAN  9780879757434  

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"Nothing is more curiously enquired after . . . than the causes of every phenomenon. . . . We] push on our enquiries, till we arrive at the original and ultimate principle. . . . This is our aim in all our studies and reflections."
These words sum up David Hume's plan: To discover the fundamental principles at work in the nature and extent of human knowledge, and in so doing to gain a clearer understanding of our perception, ideas (e.g. of cause and effect), impressions, beliefs, passions, virtues, and vices. Hume's piercing critique and relentless analysis make this truly one of the most influential works of the Early Modern period.

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More About David Hume

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! DAVID HUME was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 26, 1711. He entered the University of Edinburgh at the age of twelve but left a few years later without having been conferred a degree. Being a lifelong skeptic, Hume was taken with the French philosophers whose work was exemplary of the movement. In 1734, he made an intellec-tual pilgrimage to La Fleche, France, the town where Descartes had been educated. Three years later, this change of scene culminated in his book titled A Treatise of Human Nature.

After returning to England in 1737, the remainder of Hume's life was spent writing on psychology, morality, and politics. During this time, his bid for appointment as professor of ethics in Edinburgh proved unsuccessful because of his views on religion. From that point on, he was to undertake short-term positions of employment with powerful and influential people in the English government. These appointments included some travel to the Continent. From 1767 to 1768 he served as undersecretary of state for the northern depart-ment. Hume then returned to Edinburgh, where he died eight years later on August 25, 1776.
David Hume's works include: A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Treatise--Of the Understanding (1739), Of the Passions (1740), An Abstract of a Treatise of Human Nature (1740), Essays Moral and Political (1741-1742), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understand-ing (1758), An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Political Discourses (1751), History of England (1754-1762), Four Dissertations (1757), and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (published posthumously in 1779).

David Hume was born in 1560 and died in 1630.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An Awful Edition, Full of Typos  Oct 5, 2007
If you are looking to buy Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, buy another edition. In addition to making poor font choices, this edition's editors have let an unconscionable number of typos slip through. There are so many, perhaps as many as one per page, that sometimes Hume's meaning is obscured, and reading is made difficult.
philosophy as social science  Nov 25, 2006
Hume's `Treatise on Human Nature', the book, which, in the report of the author "fell stillborn from the press", and yet remains of continuing interest to us four centuries hence, is, among all else, the primordial exposition of a systematic psychology in the West. Hume's elevation of "the passions" ("Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.") and centralization of intentionality in the study of ourselves, are as significant contributions to the modern turn, more specifically, the transition to late modernity, as are the fruits of his more notorious skeptical detachment and trenchant empiricism and naturalism. Of all the so-called classical empiricists, none prefigures those characteristically late modern naturalist, positivist, analytic, and, to an extent, pragmatist, and even (surprisingly) existentialist outlooks as clearly as Hume. Also, the profound impact of Hume, the social scientist, on social organization and social forms is indisputable. In this work, Hume fathers the concept of rule utilitarianism (he was the original modern occidental utilitarian), the most influential articulation of which is found in the U.S. Constitution, established little more than a decade after his death in 1776.

The celebrated Selby-Bigge/Nidditch edition is, for the general reader or undergraduate, at under $5, still a terrific value. Why? First and foremost, the Index: among the best ever! Hume is complex. While his initial presentation is often (intentionally, I'd say) disarmingly direct, the justifications for and commentary on the ramifications of his assertions often engender and weave into vast and subtle conceptual patterns, which meander over a 662 page corpus of text. The index locates and situates the basic concepts and allows the individual to structure the reading. Incredibly useful -- as one may not wish to read all of Hume or all of Hume at once! More likely, the prospective reader is searching for a very specific concept or issue, and the precise and comprehensive Index makes penetration of what is in many places a difficult and arcane text quite doable.
Misadvertised/mis-linked to different edition  Feb 23, 2006
This was not the edition I wanted, as follows: I initially found the desired edition, including a photo of the cover, followed the links for available copies, including this one which I purchased (which, BTW, did not have a photo of cover, but I assumed it was same edition as on the initial page). Was dismayed to receive this different edition. It matters because it was for a friend's college course. Professors often reference pages in the assigned edition, which do not correspond to another edition's page numbering. Please minimize such confusion by more accurate advertising (include a cover photo on every linked page, to ensure it matches the initial one) or more accurate linking--i.e. don't show a specific search result but then link to other books that are not the same one, unless again, there are cover photos or other info displayed to distinguish them.
Great Principles on Understanding, Emotions, & Morals  Mar 23, 2005
According to David Hume, the mind and body are integral units, with one unable to exist or operate without the other. There are no "innate" ideas, nor logically a priori knowledge, only sense impressions that arise out of direct experience of the five senses and concomitant sense ideas that arise in the imagination. The imagination (i.e., mind) then makes associations. From these various sense impressions and ideas, the imagination commingles the ideas with inferences from resemblance, contiguity, and causality. Examples: The imagination relates one sense impression and its concomitant sense idea with another when they share similar characteristics or resemble one another, such as in shape, height, weight, distance, proportion, color, etc. The imagination associates one sense impression and its concomitant sense idea with another when they are in close contiguity, such as proximity in time, place, situation, connection, succession, etc. Lastly, the imagination associates one sense impression and its concomitant sense idea with another when there appears to be some cause and effect, for example when one turns on a wall switch, and a light appears, or one turns a key in an ignition, and a car starts, or other causal inferences. Only from the sense ideas and impressions, commingled with the imagination's inferences of resemblance, contiguity, and causality, can any opinion or belief or knowledge be known. The difference between an opinion, belief, or knowledge is only one of degree, namely, how strong, convincingly, and lively (Hume uses the word "vivacity") the senses, their ideas, and the inferences work themselves out in the imagination. Generally, knowledge is reserved only for the strongest of degrees of inference, such as those verifiable and not refutable by inferential (cf., deductive) logic or experimentation; all else is either opinion or belief. But no knowledge, no matter how often repeated and examined inductively, is absolute; all knowledge, like opinion and belief, is contingent. For "absolute" knowledge once held the earth to be flat, to be the center of the universe, and non-rotating. Even Einstein's Theory of Relativity had to be revised by a Special Theory of Relativity. We still don't understand how the universe can be "full" and still "expanding," yet both are true (so far!). Only knowledge, belief, and opinion derived from the senses, their ideas, and imaginative inferences have merit; all other "imaginations," such as the deductive existence of a "God" or Supreme Being, absolute morals, or correct emotions, are merely speculative imaginations, and ultimately all such speculation leads to nothing more than myth or superstition, false dogmas, and irrational beliefs.

The passions, better known as either sensations or emotions, are derived from sense experience as well and are derived from the other sense impressions and sense ideas. Sensations are those experiences that arise within the imagination itself, based on something the body itself produces, such as hunger, pain, thirst, pleasure, and uneasiness. Emotions are those experiences that arise from the sensations and sense impressions and their concomitant sense ideas. The four principle emotions are: (1) Pride, and its opposite (2) Humility; (3) Love, and its opposite (4) Hatred. Pride and Love are desirable, whereas Humility and Hatred are undesirable. All other emotions are derived from, or are in one degree or another, always reducible to these four. Beauty, for example, is the love of something well-figured and loved for its own sake, while ugliness is something disfigured or ill-figured and hated. Anger is a form of hatred, while happiness is a form of either Pride or Love or both. Jealousy is a form of hatred (of another), while compassion is a form of Love. All emotions, when considered in their origins, have these four emotions as their foundation; it's all a matter of degree and kind.

There is no absolute morality; no moral principle can be deductively arrived at (except to be pure speculation). Morals can only be inferred from the two principles of (1) maximize pleasure and (2) avoid pain. These principles are natural inclinations of the body itself, not derived from logic or reason (i.e., speculation), but by verifiable experimentation, inferred from experience itself, especially the emotions of pride, humility, love, and hatred. We like to be loved, we despise to be hated, so we do those things that maximize these natural inclinations, because we want pleasure and to avoid pain, and they alone are what count as "moral." All virtue is that which brings us pleasure; all vice is that which brings us pain. For example, we are just to one another, not because we ought to be, but because we desire that being just toward others will merit other's affection, whereas being unjust will cause others to avoid us; the first is pleasurable, the latter is painful. We respect each other's property because it brings us mutual pleasure to enjoy the fruits of our own labor, whereas it causes us pain to have our property taken from us. The origin of government is from the experience where doing things socially imparts pleasure, whereas doing things in isolation causes pain. No one is an island, is true. Warding off an enemy as an individual forces the individual to bear all the weight, thus causing pain. Fighting the enemy together fosters our mutual interests (i.e., pleasure), and allows all to participate in the fruits of individual endeavors. We benefit from mutual cooperation, which good government ought to foster, whereas we lose and experience pain when we try to fight all battles by our own selves. There really is benefit in "numbers," to having more people in favor of the things we collectively sponsor and work hard for, and are opposed to those things that oppress. Showing how "each person benefits by collective effort" is how to operate good government; showing "how each person loses by individual effort alone" is another good reason for government. Government's sole function and purpose is to advance the collective cooperation, wherein each individual ultimately flourishes (and brings pleasure).
Oxford's edition by the Nortons is the only one to buy  Nov 23, 2004
Since Hume's Treatise first appeared in 1739-1740, several distinct editions have been published. While most of these are fine for casual use, the Oxford University Press edition, recently prepared by David and Mary Norton, stands alone as an outstanding scholarly achievement. Their edition, at present only available in the Oxford Philosophical Texts student edition, will within the next year or so also be available in a scholarly edition (Oxford's Clarendon Edition). These two versions have the same text of the Treatise. The difference between them lies in their introductions and annotations, which are suited to different sets of readers. Part of the value of both versions lies in these exceptional introductions and annotations. The other part, though, involves the Nortons' editing of the text of the Treatise itself, which, ironically, makes their edition more accurate than Hume's original. While the original edition of the Treatise was being printed, Hume instructed the printer to make changes to the text, and thus some first editions read differently than others. The Nortons have compared first-edition copies of the Treatise page by page to locate these changes. Pen in hand, Hume also scribbled other changes into several printed copies of the Treatise; the Nortons have accounted for those alterations as well. These are just two examples of many editorial tasks that have gone into making this the definitive edition of Hume's Treatise, the edition which will remain the standard for decades. Let me add a word regarding the critical comments that an anonymous this reviewer made about the Nortons' edition ("A reader", January 18, 2003). This reviewer's comments may be well-meaning, but I can say with confidence there is little substance to her/his objections. The edition has been widely hailed as a triumph by Hume scholars and scholarly reviewers, and the philosophy editors at Oxford University Press tell me they are completely delighted with the work.

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