The Philosophy of David Hume: A Collection of Online Resources and Key Quotes

Lennox Johnson Resources

This page aims to make learning about the philosophy of David Hume as easy as possible by bringing together the best articles, podcasts, and videos from across the internet onto one page. To get started, simply choose one of the resources listed below, or browse a selection of key quotes by Hume at the bottom of the page.

Encyclopedia Articles

This section features articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The SEP is probably the most comprehensive online philosophy resource. It features in-depth articles on a huge number of philosophical topics, however, it is aimed at an academic audience and may be too detailed and technical for beginners. The IEP is generally more beginner-friendly but is also considered to be less reliable. Wikipedia is also an option, but it is much less reliable than either of these.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Articles

This section features short articles written by professional philosophers and aimed at a general audience. These articles are ideal for anyone looking for a shorter or more beginner-friendly introduction to Hume than the encyclopedia articles listed above.

1000-Word Philosophy

Aeon

The Times Literary Supplement

The Conversation

The New York Times (The Stone)

The Guardian

OUP Blog

Podcasts

This section features episodes from leading philosophy podcasts. These are also aimed at a general audience and are a good option for beginners who prefer audio content.

Philosophy Bites

In Our Time

The Philosopher’s Zone

Elucidations

Short Videos (<30 mins)

This section features short videos aimed at beginners.

Wireless Philosophy

Misc

Lectures/Longer Videos (>30 mins)

This section features longer videos and lectures. These tend to be less beginner-friendly and aimed at a more academic audience.

Course Syllabi

This section features a selection of university course syllabi. Browsing course syllabi can be a useful way to find reading recommendations.

  • Hume – Carnegie Mellon University
  • Hume – Philosophy 322 | Stanford University
  • Hume – New York University
Book Recommendations

This section features requests for book recommendations on philosophy forums. These can also be useful to browse when trying to find reading recommendations.

Books

There is only so much that you can learn using free online resources. This section features books that may be useful if you’re looking to learn more about Hume. This list was created using the books featured in the course syllabi and forum recommendations above.

Courses

This section features online courses on Hume.

Quotes

This section features a selection of key quotes by Hume.


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.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 2, pt. 3, sect. 3


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.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 3, pt. 1, sect. 1


Tis not, therefore, reason, which is the guide of life, but custom.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, Abstract


It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. It is 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. It is as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledged lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter. … In short, a passion must be accompanyed with some false judgment in order to its being unreasonable; and even then it is not the passion, properly speaking, which is unreasonable, but the judgment.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 2, pt. 3, sect. 3


In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprized to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 3, pt. 1, sect. 1


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 of others. To seek the real beauty, or real deformity, is as fruitless an enquiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter.

– Of the Standard of Taste


We have no other notion of cause and effect, but that of certain objects, which have been always conjoined together, and which in all past instances have been found inseparable.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 1, pt. 3, sect. 7


If there be any suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless, and can give rise to no inference or conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 4, 25


If we believe, that fire warms, or water refreshes, it is only because it costs us too much pains to think otherwise.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 1, pt. 4, sect. 7


Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds [of scepticism], nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther. Here then I find myself absolutely and necessarily determined to live, and talk, and act like other people in the common affairs of life.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 1, pt. 4, sect. 7


All the philosophy … in the world, and all the religion, which is nothing but a species of philosophy, will never be able to carry us beyond the usual course of experience, or give us measures of conduct and behaviour different from those which are furnished by reflections on common life.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 11, 113


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.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 10, 91


Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.

– A Treatise of Human Nature, bk. 1, pt. 4, sect. 7


Upon the whole, we may conclude, that 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.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 10, 101


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.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 12, 132


Be a philosopher; but, amidst your philosophy, be still a man.

– An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sect. 1, 4


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