David Hume (born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. Beginning with A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), Hume strove to create a naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature.
David Hume Quotes and Sayings
#1 Letter to Adam Smith, London, 12 April 1759, Quoted in An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations With a Life of the Author, Thomas Nelson, 1843
1. 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.
#2 Essay: Of The Immortality of the Soul
2. Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.
Were one to go round the world with an intention of giving a good supper to the righteous, and a sound drubbing to the wicked, he would frequently be embarrassed in his choice, and would find, that the merits and demerits of most men and women scarcely amount to the value of either.
#3-8 Book II, Of The Passions, A Treatise of Human Nature [S]
3. Grief and disappointment give rise to anger, anger to envy, envy to malice, and malice to grief again, till the whole circle be completed. (Section IV: Of the relations of impressions and ideas)
4. 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. (Section XI: Of the love of fame)
5. A chearful countenance infuses a sensible complacency and serenity into my mind; as an angry or sorrowful one throws a sudden damp 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. (Section XI: Of the love of fame)
6. Love in animals, has not for its only object animals of the same species, but extends itself farther, and comprehends almost every sensible and thinking being. A dog naturally
loves a man above his own species, and very commonly meets with a return of affection. (Section XII: Of the love and hatred of animals)
7. 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. (Section III: Of the influencing motives of the will)
8. In general we may remark, that the minds of men are mirrors to one another, not only because they reflect each others emotions, but also because those rays of passions, sentiments and opinions may be often reverberated, and may decay away by insensible degrees.
#9-10 Book III, Of Morals, A Treatise of Human Nature
9. Morality 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 red and solid, than where the subject is,
in a great measure, indifferent to us. (Part 1, Section I: Moral Distinctions not deriv’d from Reason)
10. 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, Section I: Moral Distinctions not deriv’d from Reason)
#11-12 SECTION I, OF THE DIFFERENT SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY, AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING [S]
11. 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.
12. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.
#13 Section IV, Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING [S]
13. That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind.
#14 Section X Of Miracles, AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING [S]
14. 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.
#15 SECTION VI, OF QUALITIES USEFUL TO OURSELVES, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals [S]
15. He is happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.
#16 SECTION IX, CONCLUSION, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals [S]
16. I am convinced that, 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 absurdities.
#17-18 Essay: The Sceptic
17. A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.
18. In a word, human life is more governed by fortune than by reason; is to be regarded more as a dull pastime than a serious occupation; and is more influenced by particular humour, than by general principles. Shall we engage ourselves in it with passion and anxiety? It is not worthy of so much concern. Shall we be indifferent about what happens? We lose all the pleasure of the game by our phlegm and carelessness. While we are reasoning concerning life, life is gone; and death, though perhaps they receive him differently, yet treats alike the fool and the philosopher.
#19-20 Of the Standard of Taste [S]
19. 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.
20. To seek in the real beauty, or real deformity, is as fruitless an enquiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter. According to the disposition of the organs, the same object may be both sweet and bitter; and the proverb has justly determined it to be fruitless to dispute concerning tastes.
#21-22 Book I, Of the Understanding, A Treatise of Human Nature
21. To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive.
22. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.