'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: with Hume's Abstract of A Treatise of Human Nature and A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh'
By David Hume (Author), Eric Steinberg (Editor, Introduction)
A landmark of Enlightenment thought, Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is accompanied here by two shorter works that shed light on it: A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh, Hume's response to those accusing him of atheism, of advocating extreme skepticism, and of undermining the foundations of morality; and his Abstract of A Treatise of Human Nature, which anticipates discussions developed in the Enquiry.
In his concise Introduction, Eric Steinberg explores the conditions that led Hume to write the Enquiry and the work's important relationship to Book I of Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature.
`These new Hackett editions have been meticulously collated from various exatant versions. Each text has an excellent introduction including an overview of Hume's thought and an account of his life and times. Even the difficult, and rarely commented-on, chapters on space and time are elucidated. There are also useful notes on the text and glossary. These scholarly new editions are ideally adapted for a whole range of readers, from beginners to experts.'
(Jane O'Grady, Catholic Herald)
One of the most influential British philosophers, the Scot, David Hume was at once historian, economist and philosopher and was known for both his skepticism and empiricism. As one of the main figures of the school of empiricism in England, Hume restricted knowledge to experience of ideas and impressions whose ultimate source cannot be verified. His early years were spent in Edinburgh, but like Locke, he journeyed later in life to France where he wrote one of his most famous works, A Treatise on Human Nature, expounding a full philosophical system which, however, he later repudiated as being a work of youth. He returned to England and in 1741 and 1742 wrote essays on moral and political philosophy and soon thereafter his most famous works, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding andAn Enquiry Concerning the Principle of Morals. He also wrote a history of England and carried out disputes with Rousseau. Hume is known in the later history of philosophy for his radical denial of the possibility of any deductive science and also of causality. He claimed, somewhat like the Ash'arite theologians in Islam, that the impression upon the mind of one event followed by another event gives rise to the idea of causality. However, in contrast to the Ash'arites who saw the Will of Allah as the bond which relates what appears to us as cause and effect, Hume did not believe in any relationship between what we call cause and what we call effect except habitual association in the mind which we identify as causality. He claimed that causality is simply based on belief and cannot be proven by either empirical observation or reason. The influence of Hume was primarily on those who claimed that philosophy is an inductive science of human nature and that man is created of sensitive and practical sentiments rather than reason. It was this aspect of Hume's thought that would influence Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill as well as other British philosophers such as the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. In the last few decades, Hume has been highly praised in Anglo-Saxon philosophy by the positivists who appreciate his anti-metaphysical position and his refutation of all deductive philosophy.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)