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- A wise man's kingdom is his own breast: or, if he ever looks
farther, it will only be to the judgment of a select few, who are free from prejudices,
and capable of examining his work. Nothing indeed can be a stronger presumption
of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude; and Phocion, you know, always
suspected himself of some blunder when he was attended with the applauses of the
- Letter to Adam Smith regarding the reception of "The Theory
of Moral Sentiments"
- Does a man of sense run after
every silly tale of hobgoblins or fairies, and canvass particularly the evidence?
I never knew anyone, that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not
believe it before the end of his enquiries.
- Here am I who have written on all sorts of subjects calculated to excite hostility,
moral, political, and religious, and yet I have no enemies— except, indeed, all
the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.
Famous Quotes from
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) - David Hume
- Nothing is more usual and more natural for those,
who pretend to discover anything new to the world in philosophy and the sciences,
than to insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those, which
have been advanced before them. And indeed were they content with lamenting that
ignorance, which we still lie under in the most important questions, that can
come before the tribunal of human reason, there are few, who have an acquaintance
with the sciences, that would not readily agree with them. 'Tis easy for one of
judgment and learning, to perceive the weak foundation even of those systems,
which have obtained the greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest
to accurate and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences
lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the
whole, these are every where to be met with in the systems of the most eminent
philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.
- For my part, when I enter most intimately into what
I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other,
of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can
catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any
thing but the perception. When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by
sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not
to exist. And were all my perceptions remov’d by death, and cou’d I neither think,
nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the dissolution of my body, I shou’d
be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me
a perfect non-entity. If any one upon serious and unprejudic’d reflexion, thinks
he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer
with him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and
that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive
something simple and continu’d, which he calls himself; tho’ I am certain
there is no such principle in me... But setting aside some metaphysicians of this
kind, I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but
a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with
an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.
4 Of the sceptical and other systems of philosophy, Sect. 6 Of personal
- Methinks I am like a man, who having
struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escap'd shipwreck in passing a small
frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten
vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe
under these disadvantageous circumstances.
- Part 4 Of the sceptical
and other systems of philosophy, Sect. 7 Conclusion of this book
- I am first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in which
I am plac'd in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who
not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expell'd all human commerce,
and left utterly abandon'd and disconsolate. Fain wou'd I run into the crowd for
shelter and warmth; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity.
I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will
hearken to me. Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats
upon me from every side. I have expos'd myself to the enmity of all metaphysicians,
logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults
I must suffer? I have declar'd my disapprobation of their systems; and can I be
surpriz'd, if they shou'd express a hatred of mine and of my person? When I look
abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction.
When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world
conspires to oppose and contradict me; tho' such is my weakness, that I feel all
my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation
of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every new reflection makes
me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning.
For with what confidence can
I venture upon such bold enterprises, when beside those numberless infirmities
peculiar to myself, I find so many which are common to human nature? Can I be
sure, that in leaving all established opinions I am following truth; and by what
criterion shall I distinguish her, even if fortune shou'd at last guide me on
her foot-steps? After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, I can give
no reason why I shou'd assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong propensity
to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they appear to me. Experience
is a principle, which instructs me in the several conjunctions of objects for
the past. Habit is another principle, which determines me to expect the same for
the future; and both of them conspiring to operate upon the imagination, make
me form certain ideas in a more intense and lively manner, than others, which
are not attended with the same advantages. Without this quality, by which the
mind enlivens some ideas beyond others (which seemingly is so trivial, and so
little founded on reason) we cou'd never assent to any argument, nor carry our
view beyond those few objects, which are present to our senses. Nay, even to these
objects we cou'd never attribute any existence, but what was dependent on the
senses; and must comprehend them entirely in that succession of perceptions, which
constitutes our self or person. Nay farther, even with relation to that succession,
we cou'd only admit of those perceptions, which are immediately present to our
consciousness, nor cou'd those lively images, with which the memory presents us,
be ever receiv'd as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and
understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity
of our ideas.
- Part 4 Of the sceptical and other systems of philosophy,
Sect. 7 Conclusion of this book
- This deficiency
in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life, nor are we sensible, that
in the most usual conjunctions of cause and effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate
principle, which binds them together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary.
But this proceeds merely from an illusion of the imagination; and the question
is, how far we ought to yield to these illusions. This question is very difficult,
and reduces us to a very dangerous dilemma, whichever way we answer it. For if
we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy; beside that these suggestions
are often contrary to each other; they lead us into such errors, absurdities,
and obscurities, that we must at last become asham'd of our credulity. Nothing
is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has
been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may
in this respect be compar'd to those angels, whom the scripture represents as
covering their eyes with their wings. This has already appear'd in so many instances,
that we may spare ourselves the trouble of enlarging upon it any farther.
- Part 4 Of the sceptical and other systems of philosophy, Sect. 7 Conclusion
of this book
- Generally speaking, the errors in
religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
- Part 4 Of
the sceptical and other systems of philosophy, Sect. 7 Conclusion of this
- No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both
in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize
with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments,
however different from, or even contrary to our own. This is not only conspicuous
in children, who implicitly embrace every opinion propos’d to them; but also in
men of the greatest judgment and understanding, who find it very difficult to
follow their own reason or inclination, in opposition to that of their friends
and daily companions. To this principle we ought to ascribe the great uniformity
we may observe in the humours and turn of thinking of those of the same nation;
and ’tis much more probable, that this resemblance arises from sympathy, than
from any influence of the soil and climate, which, tho’ they continue invariably
the same, are not able to preserve the character of a nation the same for a century
together. A good-natur’d man finds himself in an instant of the same humour with
his company; and even the proudest and most surly take a tincture from their countrymen
and acquaintance. A chearful countenance infuses a sensible complacency and serenity
into my mind; as an angry or sorrowful one throws a sudden dump upon me. Hatred,
resentment, esteem, love, courage, mirth and melancholy; all these passions I
feel more from communication than from my own natural temper and disposition.
So remarkable a phaenomenon merits our attention, and must be trac’d up to its
- Part 1 Of pride and humility, Sect. 11 Of
the love of fame
- We speak not strictly and philosophically
when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. 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. As this opinion may appear somewhat extraordinary, it
may not be improper to confirm it by some other considerations.
3 Of the will and direct passions, Sect. 3 Of the influencing motives
of the will
- What may at first occur on this head,
is, that as nothing can be contrary to truth or reason, except what has a reference
to it, and as the judgments of our understanding only have this reference, it
must follow, that passions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are accompany'd
with some judgment or opinion. According to this principle, which is so obvious
and natural, `tis only in two senses, that any affection can be call'd unreasonable.
First, When a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security,
is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not
exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient
for the design'd end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects.
Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor chuses means insufficient
for the end, the understanding can neither justify nor condemn it. `Tis not contrary
to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my
finger. `Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent
the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. `Tis as little
contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledge'd lesser good to my greater,
and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter. A trivial good
may, from certain circumstances, produce a desire superior to what arises from
the greatest and most valuable enjoyment; nor is there any thing more extraordinary
in this, than in mechanics to see one pound weight raise up a hundred by the advantage
of its situation. In short, a passion must be accompany'd with some false judgment.
in order to its being unreasonable; and even then `tis not the passion, properly
speaking, which is unreasonable, but the judgment.
- Part 3 Of the will
and direct passions, Sect. 3 Of the influencing motives of the will
- There is an inconvenience which attends all abstruse reasoning. that it may
silence, without convincing an antagonist, and requires the same intense study
to make us sensible of its force, that was at first requisite for its invention.
When we leave our closet, and engage in the common affairs of life, its conclusions
seem to vanish, like the phantoms of the night on the appearance of the morning;
and 'tis difficult for us to retain even that conviction, which we had attain'd
- Part 1 Of virtue and vice in general, Sect. 1
Moral distinctions not deriv'd from reason
is a subject that interests us above all others: We fancy the peace of society
to be at stake in every decision concerning it; and 'tis evident, that this concern
must make our speculations appear more real and solid, than where the subject
is, in a great measure, indifferent to us. What affects us, we conclude can never
be a chimera; and as our passion is engag'd on the one side or the other, we naturally
think that the question lies within human comprehension; which, in other cases
of this nature, we are apt to entertain some doubt of. Without this advantage
I never should have ventur'd upon a third volume of such abstruse philosophy,
in an age, wherein the greatest part of men seem agreed to convert reading into
an amusement, and to reject every thing that requires any considerable degree
of attention to be comprehended.
- Part 1 Of virtue and vice in general,
Sect. 1 Moral distinctions not deriv'd from reason
- Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is
utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not
conclusions of our reason.
- Part 1 Of virtue and vice in general,
Sect. 1 Moral distinctions not deriv'd from reason
- Actions may be laudable or blameable; but they cannot be reasonable: Laudable
or blameable, therefore, are not the same with reasonable or unreasonable. The
merit and demerit of actions frequently contradict, and sometimes controul our
natural propensities. But reason has no such influence. Moral distinctions, therefore,
are not the offspring of reason. Reason is wholly inactive, and can never be the
source of so active a principle as conscience, or a sense of morals.
1 Of virtue and vice in general, Sect. 1 Moral distinctions not deriv'd
- Take any action allow’d to be vicious:
Wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find
that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which-ever
way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts.
There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as
long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflexion
into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in
you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling,
not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce
any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution
of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation
of it. Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compar’d to sounds, colours, heat and
cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but
perceptions in the mind[.]
- Part 1 Of virtue and vice in general,
Sect. 1 Moral distinctions not deriv'd from reason
Quotes from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - David Hume
published as Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding in 1748,
revised in 1751, and retitled in 1758.
- Custom, then, is the great
guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful
to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those
which have appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be
entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to
the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to
employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end
at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation.
(perhaps a paraphrase of this passage): It is not reason which is the guide
of life, but custom.
- Nature has pointed out a
mixed kind of life as most suitable to the human race, and secretly admonished
them to allow none of these biases to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them
for other occupations and entertainments. Indulge your passion for science, says
she, but let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to
action and society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will
severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless
uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended
discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst
all your philosophy, be still a man.
- Section 1 : Of The Different
Species of Philosophy
- The most perfect philosophy
of the natural kind only staves off our ignorance a little longer: as perhaps
the most perfect philosophy of the moral or metaphysical kind serves only to discover
larger portions of it. Thus the observation of human blindness and weakness is
the result of all philosophy, and meets us at every turn, in spite of our endeavours
to elude or avoid it.
- Section 4 : Sceptical Doubts Concerning The
Operations of The Understanding
- Though experience
be our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact; it must be acknowledged,
that this guide is not altogether infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead
us into errors.
- Section 10 : Of Miracles Pt. 1
- In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees
of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence.
A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.
10 : Of Miracles Pt. 1; Variant: A wise man... proportions his belief
to the evidence.
- When anyone tells me, that he
saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it
be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that
the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle
against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce
my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony
would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till
then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.
- Section 10 :
Of Miracles Pt. 1
- Eloquence, when at its highest
pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection; but addressing itself entirely
to the fancy or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their
understanding. Happily, this pitch it seldom attains. But what a Tully or a Demosthenes
could scarcely effect over a Roman or Athenian audience, every Capuchin, every
itinerant or stationary teacher can perform over the generality of mankind, and
in a higher degree, by touching such gross and vulgar passions.
10 : Of Miracles Pt. 2
- The Christian Religion
not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed
by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince
us of its veracity: and whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious
of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of
his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary
to custom and experience.
- Section 10 : Of Miracles Pt. 2
Quotes from An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) - David
- In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public
utility is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise, either in philosophy
or common life, concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means,
be decided with greater certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side, the true
interests of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from appearances, has been
found to prevail; as soon as farther experience and sounder reasoning have given
us juster notions of human affairs, we retract our first sentiment, and adjust
anew the boundaries of moral good and evil.
- Sect. 2 : Of Benevolence,
- Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they
are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without
that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest
Famous Quotes from
The Natural History of Religion (1757) - David Hume
This work first
appeared in the collection of essays Four Dissertations (1757). It was
republished several times during Hume's life with minor variations.
every enquiry, which regards religion, is of the utmost importance, there are
two questions in particular, which challenge our attention, to wit, that concerning
its foundation in reason, and that concerning its origin in human nature.
Happily, the first question, which is the most important, admits of the most obvious,
at least, the clearest, solution. The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent
author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief
a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion.
But the other question, concerning the origin of religion in human nature, is
exposed to some more difficulty. The belief of invisible, intelligent power has
been very generally diffused over the human race, in all places and in all ages;
but it has neither perhaps been so universal as to admit of no exception, nor
has it been, in any degree, uniform in the ideas, which it has suggested. Some
nations have been discovered, who entertained no sentiments of Religion, if travellers
and historians may be credited; and no two nations, and scarce any two men, have
ever agreed precisely in the same sentiments.
- That original intelligence, say the MAGIANS, who is the first principle of
all things, discovers himself immediately to the mind and understanding
alone; but has placed the sun as his image in the visible universe; and when that
bright luminary diffuses its beams over the earth and the firmament, it is a faint
copy of the glory which resides in the higher heavens. If you would escape the
displeasure of this divine being, you must be careful never to set your bare foot
upon the ground, nor spit into a fire, nor throw any water upon it, even though
it were consuming a whole city. Who can express the perfections of the Almighty?
say the Mahometans. Even the noblest of his works, if compared to him, are but
dust and rubbish. How much more must human conception fall short of his infinite
perfections? His smile and favour renders men for ever happy; and to obtain it
for your children, the best method is to cut off from them, while infants, a little
bit of skin, about half the breadth of a farthing. Take two bits of cloth, say
the Roman catholics, about an inch or an inch and a half square, join them
by the corners with two strings or pieces of tape about sixteen inches long, throw
this over your head, and make one of the bits of cloth lie upon your breast, and
the other upon your back, keeping them next your skin: There is not a better secret
for recommending yourself to that infinite Being, who exists from eternity to
- Part VII - Confirmation of this doctrine
- The heroes in paganism correspond exactly to the saints in popery, and holy
dervises in MAHOMETANISM. The place of, HERCULES, THESEUS, HECTOR, ROMULUS, is
now supplied by DOMINIC, FRANCIS, ANTHONY, and BENEDICT. Instead of the destruction
of monsters, the subduing of tyrants, the defence of our native country; whippings
and fastings, cowardice and humility, abject submission and slavish obedience,
are become the means of obtaining celestial honours among mankind.
X - With regard to courage or abasement
- To oppose
the torrent of scholastic religion by such feeble maxims as these, that it
is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be, that the whole is
greater than a part, that two and three make five; is pretending to
stop the ocean with a bullrush. Will you set up profane reason against sacred
mystery? No punishment is great enough for your impiety. And the same fires, which
were kindled for heretics, will serve also for the destruction of philosophers.
- Part XI - With regard to reason or absurdity
- How can you worship leeks and onions? we shall suppose a SORBONNIST to say
to a priest of SAIS. If we worship them, replies the latter; at least, we do not,
at the same time, eat them. But what strange object of adoration are cats and
monkeys? says the learned doctor. They are at least as good as the relics or rotten
bones of martyrs, answers his no less learned antagonist. Are you not mad, insists
the Catholic, to cut one another's throat about the preference of a cabbage or
a cucumber? Yes, says the pagan; I allow it, if you will confess, that those are
still madder, who fight about the preference among volumes of sophistry, ten thousand
of which are not equal in value to one cabbage or cucumber.
- Part XII
- With regard to doubt or conviction
- We may observe,
that, notwithstanding the dogmatical, imperious style of all superstition, the
conviction of the religionists, in all ages, is more affected than real, and scarcely
ever approaches, in any degree, to that solid belief and persuasion, which governs
us in the common affairs of life. Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts,
the doubts which they entertain on such subjects: They make a merit of implicit
faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest asseverations
and most positive bigotry. But nature is too hard for all their endeavours, and
suffers not the obscure, glimmering light, afforded in those shadowy regions,
to equal the strong impressions, made by common sense and by experience. The usual
course of men's conduct belies their words, and shows, that their assent in these
matters is some unaccountable operation of the mind between disbelief and conviction,
but approaching much nearer to the former than to the latter.
- Part XII
- With regard to doubt or conviction
- And any practice,
recommended to him, which either serves to no purpose in life, or offers the strongest
violence to his natural inclinations; that practice he will the more readily embrace,
on account of those very circumstances, which should make him absolutely reject
it. It seems the more purely religious, because it proceeds from no mixture of
any other motive or consideration. And if, for its sake, he sacrifices much of
his ease and quiet, his claim of merit appears still to rise upon him, in proportion
to the zeal and devotion which he discovers. In restoring a loan, or paying a
debt, his divinity is nowise beholden to him; because these acts of justice are
what he was bound to perform, and what many would have performed, were there no
god in the universe. But if he fast a day, or give himself a sound whipping; this
has a direct reference, in his opinion, to the service of God. No other motive
could engage him to such austerities. By these distinguished marks of devotion,
he has now acquired the divine favour; and may expect, in recompence, protection
and safety in this world, and eternal happiness in the next.
- Part XIV
- Bad influence of popular religions on morality
more exquisite any good is, of which a small specimen is afforded us, the sharper
is the evil, allied to it; and few exceptions are found to this uniform law of
nature. The most sprightly wit borders on madness; the highest effusions of joy
produce the deepest melancholy; the most ravishing pleasures are attended with
the most cruel lassitude and disgust; the most flattering hopes make way for the
severest disappointments. And, in general, no course of life has such safety (for
happiness is not to be dreamed of) as the temperate and moderate, which maintains,
as far as possible, a mediocrity, and a kind of insensibility, in every thing.
As the good, the great, the sublime, the ravishing are found eminently in the
genuine principles of theism; it may be expected, from the analogy of nature,
that the base, the absurd, the mean, the terrifying will be equally discovered
in religious fictions and chimeras.
- Part XV - General corollary
- The universal propensity to believe in invisible, intelligent power, if not
an original instinct, being at least a general attendant of human nature, may
be considered as a kind of mark or stamp, which the divine workman has set upon
his work; and nothing surely can more dignify mankind, than to be thus selected
from all other parts of the creation, and to bear the image or impression of the
universal Creator. But consult this image, as it appears in the popular religions
of the world. How is the deity disfigured in our representations of him! What
caprice, absurdity, and immorality are attributed to him! How much is he degraded
even below the character, which we should naturally, in common life, ascribe to
a man of sense and virtue!
- Part XV - General corollary
- What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the
supreme Being; and, from the visible works of nature, be enabled to infer so sublime
a principle as its supreme Creator? But turn the reverse of the medal. Survey
most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact,
prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing
but sick men's dreams: Or perhaps will regard them more as the playsome whimsies
of monkies in human shape, than the serious, positive, dogmatical asseverations
of a being, who dignifies himself with the name of rational.
- Part XV
- General corollary
- Hear the verbal protestations
of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives:
You will scarcely think that they repose the smallest confidence in them. The
greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrisy: The most open
impiety is attended with a secret dread and compunction. No theological absurdities
so glaring that they have not, sometimes, been embraced by men of the greatest
and most cultivated understanding. No religious precepts so rigorous that they
have not been adopted by the most voluptuous and most abandoned of men.
XV - General corollary
- Look out for a people, entirely
destitute of religion: If you find, them at all, be assured, that they are but
few degrees removed from brutes. What so pure as some of the morals, included
in some theological system? What so corrupt as some of the practices, to which
these systems give rise?
- Part XV - General corollary
- The whole is a riddle, an aenigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty,
suspence of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning
this subject. But such is the frailty of human reason, and such the irresistible
contagion of opinion, that even this deliberate doubt could scarcely be upheld;
did we not enlarge our view, and opposing one species of superstition to another,
set them a quarrelling; while we ourselves, during their fury and contention,
happily make our escape, into the calm, though obscure, regions of philosophy.
- Part XV - General corollary
Quotes from Essays Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) - David Hume
- It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty, that this peculiar
privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us, but must
last as long as our government remains, in any degree, free and independent. It
is seldom, that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Slavery has so frightful
an aspect to men accustomed to freedom, that it must steal upon them by degrees,
and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes, in order to be received. But, if
the liberty of the press ever be lost, it must be lost at once. The general laws
against sedition and libelling are at present as strong as they possibly can be
made. Nothing can impose a farther restraint, but either the clapping an Imprimatur
upon the press, or the giving to the court very large discretionary powers to
punish whatever displeases them. But these concessions would be such a bare-faced
violation of liberty, that they will probably be the last efforts of a despotic
government. We may conclude, that the liberty of Britain is gone for ever when
these attempts shall succeed.
- Essay 2 : Of the Liberty of the Press
- Nothing appears more surprizing
to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness
with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with
which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When
we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force
is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them
but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and
this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well
as to the most free and most popular.
- Essay 4 : Of The First Principles
- It is, therefore, a just political
maxim, that every man must be supposed a knave: Though at the same time, it appears
somewhat strange, that a maxim should be true in politics, which is false in fact.
But to satisfy us on this head, we may consider, that men are generally more honest
in their private than in their public capacity, and will go greater lengths to
serve a party, than when their own private interest is alone concerned. Honour
is a great check upon mankind: But where a considerable body of men act together,
this check is, in a great measure, removed; since a man is sure to be approved
of by his own party, for what promotes the common interest; and he soon learns
to despise the clamours of adversaries.
- Essay 6 : Of The Independency
of Parliament; often quoted as "It is... a just political maxim, that every
man must be supposed a knave."
- In all ages of
the world, priests have been enemies to liberty; and it is certain, that this
steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and
ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal
to priestly power, and to those pious frauds, on which it is commonly founded;
and, by an infallible connexion, which prevails among all kinds of liberty, this
privilege can never be enjoyed, at least has never yet been enjoyed, but in a
- Essay 9 : Of The Parties of Great Britain
- The slaving Poor are incapable of any Principles: Gentlemen may be converted
to true Principles, by Time and Experience. The middling Rank of Men have Curiosity
and Knowledge enough to form Principles, but not enough to form true ones, or
correct any Prejudices that they may have imbib’d: And ’tis among the middling
Rank, that Tory Principles do at present prevail most in England.
9 : Of The Parties of Great Britain; final lines of this essay in the 1741
and 1742 editions of Essays, Moral and Political, they were not included
in later editions.
- Avarice, the spur of industry,
is so obstinate a passion, and works its way through so many real dangers and
difficulties, that it is not likely to be scared by an imaginary danger, which
is so small, that it scarcely admits of calculation. Commerce, therefore, in my
opinion, is apt to decay in absolute governments, not because it is there less
secure, but because it is less honourable.
- Essay 12 : Of Civil Liberty
- It is a great mortification to the vanity of man,
that his utmost art and industry can never equal the meanest of nature's productions,
either for beauty or value. Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to
give a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces, which come from the hand
of the master
- Art may make a suit of clothes; but nature must produce a man.
- If nature has been frugal
in her gifts and endowments, there is the more need of art to supply her defects.
If she has been generous and liberal, know that she still expects industry and
application on our part, and revenges herself in proportion to our negligent ingratitude.
The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into
the rankest weeds; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure and use of
man, produces, to its slothful owner, the most abundant crop of poisons.
- The great end of all
human industry, is the attainment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sciences
cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modelled, by the most profound wisdom
of patriots and legislators.
- All sentiment is right; because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond
itself, and is always real, wherever a man is conscious of it. But all determinations
of the understanding are not right; because they have a reference to something
beyond themselves, to wit, real matter of fact; and are not always conformable
to that standard.
- Essay 23 : Of The Standard of Taste
- Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which
contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may
even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual
ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those
- Essay 23 : Of The Standard of Taste
- A propensity to hope and joy is real riches: One to fear and sorrow, real
Famous Quotes from The
History of England (1754-62) - David Hume
- It was a fixed maxim
in this reign, as well as in some of the subsequent, that no native of the island
should ever be advanced to any dignity, ecclesiastical, civil, or military. The
king therefore, upon Stigand’s deposition, promoted Lanfranc, a Milanese monk,
celebrated for his learning and piety, to the vacant see. This prelate was rigid
in defending the prerogatives of his station; and after a long process before
the pope, he obliged Thomas, a Norman monk, who had been appointed to the see
of York, to acknowledge the primacy of the archbishop of Canterbury. Where ambition
can be so happy as to cover its enterprizes, even to the person himself, under
the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of all human
passions. Hence Lanfranc’s zeal in promoting the interests of the papacy, by which
he himself augmented his own authority, was indefatigable; and met with proportionable
success. The devoted attachment to Rome continually encreased in England; and
being favoured by the sentiments of the conquerors, as well as by the monastic
establishments formerly introduced by Edred and by Edgar, it soon reached the
same height, at which it had, during some time, stood in France and Italy. It
afterwards went much farther; being favoured by that very remote situation, which
had at first obstructed its progress; and being less checked by knowledge and
a liberal education, which were still somewhat more common in the southern countries.
- Volume I, Part IV : William the Conqueror
from Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) - David Hume
sporadically from 1757-1776 and published posthumously.
- What peculiar
privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call thought, that we
must thus make it the model of the whole universe? Our partiality in our own favour
does indeed present it on all occasions; but sound philosophy ought carefully
to guard against so natural an illusion.
- Philo to Cleanthes, Part II
- If reason (I mean abstract reason, derived
from inquiries a priori) be not alike mute with regard to all questions
concerning cause and effect, this sentence at least it will venture to pronounce,
That a mental world, or universe of ideas, requires a cause as much, as does a
material world, or universe of objects; and, if similar in its arrangement, must
require a similar cause. For what is there in this subject, which should occasion
a different conclusion or inference? In an abstract view, they are entirely alike;
and no difficulty attends the one supposition, which is not common to both of
- Philo to Cleanthes, Part IV
- In a word,
CLEANTHES, a man who follows your hypothesis is able perhaps to assert, or conjecture,
that the universe, sometime, arose from something like design: but beyond that
position he cannot ascertain one single circumstance; and is left afterwards to
fix every point of his theology by the utmost license of fancy and hypothesis.
This world, for aught he knows, is very faulty and imperfect, compared to a superior
standard; and was only the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterwards
abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance: it is the work only of some dependent,
inferior deity; and is the object of derision to his superiors: it is the production
of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity; and ever since his death, has
run on at adventures, from the first impulse and active force which it received
from him. You justly give signs of horror, DEMEA, at these strange suppositions;
but these, and a thousand more of the same kind, are CLEANTHES’s suppositions,
not mine. From the moment the attributes of the Deity are supposed finite, all
these have place. And I cannot, for my part, think that so wild and unsettled
a system of theology is, in any respect, preferable to none at all.
- You need only look around you, replied
PHILO, to satisfy yourself with regard to this question. A tree bestows order
and organisation on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order;
an animal in the same manner on its offspring; a bird on its nest; and instances
of this kind are even more frequent in the world than those of order, which arise
from reason and contrivance. To say, that all this order in animals and vegetables
proceeds ultimately from design, is begging the question; nor can that great point
be ascertained otherwise than by proving, a priori, both that order is,
from its nature, inseparably attached to thought; and that it can never of itself,
or from original unknown principles, belong to matter.
- In such a chain, too, or succession of objects,
each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes that which succeeds
it. Where then is the difficulty? But the WHOLE, you say, wants a cause. I answer,
that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct
countries into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed
merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of
things. Did I shew you the particular causes of each individual in a collection
of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you
afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently
explained in explaining the cause of the parts.
- Cleanthes to Demea, Part
- And why should man, added he, pretend to an exemption
from the lot of all other animals? The whole earth, believe me, PHILO, is cursed
and polluted. A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures. Necessity,
hunger, want, stimulate the strong and courageous: Fear, anxiety, terror, agitate
the weak and infirm. The first entrance into life gives anguish to the new-born
infant and to its wretched parent: Weakness, impotence, distress, attend each
stage of that life: and it is at last finished in agony and horror.
- Were a stranger to drop on a sudden
into this world, I would show him, as a specimen of its ills, a hospital full
of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle
strewed with carcasses, a fleet foundering in the ocean, a nation languishing
under tyranny, famine, or pestilence. To turn the gay side of life to him, and
give him a notion of its pleasures; whither should I conduct him? to a ball, to
an opera, to court? He might justly think, that I was only showing him a diversity
of distress and sorrow.
- Look round this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and
organised, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity.
But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth
regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of
them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The
whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, impregnated by a great
vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental
care, her maimed and abortive children!
- Philo to Cleanthes, Part XI
quotes Attributed to David Hume
Some of these statements appear to be
what could be paraphrases of Hume's ideas rather than quotations of his works.
- Character is the result of a system of stereotyped principles.
- Everything in the world is purchased by labor.
- He is happy
whom circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent who suits his temper
to any circumstance.
- Truth springs from argument amongst friends.
If you know of any Hume quotes that are not currently on this
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