An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
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An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

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David Hume (April 26, 1711 - August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher and historian. He is often considered one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy. Although in recent years interest in Hume's works has centered on his philosophical writing, it was as a historian that he gained his initial fame.
Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 8th 2007 by Book Jungle (first published January 1st 1392)
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John Yelverton
It would be one thing if all Hume did was ask the question, instead, he gives some quite pathetic answers that professors still cram down student's throats.
Published in 1751 and considered by the Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume himself to be the best and most important of his works, this enquiry explores morality empirically, studying its basis in both reason and what Hume labeled “sentimentalism,” a sympathy-based function of intuitive feelings. It was Hume’s contention that morality can never be based on rationality alone. In fact, most moral decisions are derived from such intuitions, subsequently fine-tuned and justified by reason...more
Hume is the moral philosopher who is most recognizable as a fellow modern human being. In his short autobiographical "My Own Life", he says that the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is "incomparably the best" of all his writings (though he admits that he isn't the one to judge that).

Reading this for the first time, I was surprised at how little "philosophy" is in it--by that, I mean how little complicated argumentation there is. Most of the arguments are short and direct: against som...more
Well, this was disappointing.

I say this because Hume’s first Enquiry was brilliant, unforgettably so. There, we see Hume as one of the most subtle, most penetrating, and most profound thinkers in Western history. Here we see him don the hat of a common moralist:

“Instance, briefly; come, instance” (As You Like It)

Hume apparently shared the English love for instances. He fills up entire chapters with example after example of moral and immoral acts. He drones away like a pontificating prefect. It’s...more
When scholars discuss Hume's moral theory, their discussion usually centers on the passions and theory of morality on his earlier work, The Treatise on Human Nature. Hume, however, in the Advertisement for the Enquiry, states that Enquiry offers a corrective to some mistakes he made as a youth in the Treatise, and that the Enquiry should be regarded as his settled view on morality.

Hume covers quite a bit of ground in a relatively short book: the virtue of benevolence, self-love, justice, and the...more
Hume's moral philosophy, though preferable to the childish and ridiculous approach of his contemporary Kant, is incredibly tedious reading when compared to his other work, and far less philosophically astute or argumentatively valid.

The whole project is a bit strange. He seems to accept much of what Hobbes argued, but then reduce what Hobbes thought was the foundation and basis of ethics to simply a prerequisite for morality to exist. Then he argues the famous case re: shared sentiment, etc., w...more
Bob Nichols
In his Inquiry, Hume argues that affections provide the motive force to follow "sounder principles." Boiled down to their essence, affections constitute self-interest. As our self-interest conflicts with that of others, reason requires restraint. Sympathy links reason and affections as we are able to see that others pursue their own self-interest and, therefore, self-restraint is necessary. In this way, Hume deduces morals and public virtue from self-love.

In a way, Hume is aligned with Plato (re...more
Hume is such an optimist, it's both adorable and gross. All philosophies, religions, treatises, works, etc. require a leap of faith, and if you accept that our inborn, instinctive sentiment for our fellow human beings form the basis of our morality, then Hume's work is internally consistent. While I think it's a nice idea, and I would love to live in such a world, it doesn't exist on a macroscopic scale. Is this leap of faith more convincing than the one required for religious texts? Yes, it's e...more
In essence, morality is the combination of reason and sentiment (feeling). Approbation being the ultimate foundation of not only our ethical decisions, but the mechanics of society. Because of this, morality is a function of society. It's utility to that web is its fundamental reason for existing. And best shown when man and woman utilize their moral tools focused on the betterment of the opposite; with an emphasize on attaining lasting happiness through the world's simple pleasures. Leaving suc...more
Richard Newton
This was Hume's favourite of all his writing. For me personally, I much prefer the relevant parts of the Treatise. Although this is an easier read, it is less philosophically enlightening - or at least I find it harder to get to the philosophical core. However, like all of Hume's writing it is a rather fabulous book.

There are many versions of this book, but it is Beauchamp's introduction which makes it worth buying this specific version. It is a really useful summary, not only of this second enq...more
Adom Hartell
Everything here seemed either super obvious or wrong, but it's a good book if you keep in mind how non-obvious it was at the time. Hume is really bad at commas though.
Jeremy Egerer
A pretty good summary of natural law, employing the concept of utility without giving way to utilitarianism. Despite Hume's literary style, slightly confusing, but worth a read for those interested in exploring the natural sentiments of man, and seeing what general feelings we share, and how they can differ between people. Very similar to the first part of Hobbes' Leviathan, which I thought was the best section.

Gets extremely good in the four appendices -- if the actual "book" portion of this tr...more
Andrew Marr
Science, bitch.

^^^ A decent two-word summary of Hume's ethical project.
Much like Hume's previous works, An Enquiry Concering the Principles of Morals attempts to reduce a common philosophical quandary to mere common sense through empirical observations. Hume believes that all morality can be reduced to human sentiment, our emotions, and the utility which our actions provide.

Ultimately, Hume resolves much of his contemporary conflicts and objections but under more scrutiny his conclusions have their own problems.
One of the finest works on skeptical ethics ever written. Hume can retreat from the common worldview and bring moral problems under examination through the use of skeptical inquiry. From there, he can puzzle the work back together. building and ethical foundation built upon validity.
I feel like Hume isn't actually building up a philosophical argument, rather he is simply pontificating on his personal views. Also, he doesn't talk about what he seems to set out to talk about, namely whether morals are derived from reason or sentiment.
Michael Austin
I disagree with Hume about almost everything. However, this book is thought-provoking and I thought his reply to those who argue that everything we do is out of self-love was entertaining, and true.
Jacob Stubbs
In this, Hume presents his empirical view of ethics. The focal point of this is his view of "sympathy", which states that man, by nature, only will do what he would want done in return to him.
Kamran Swanson
Brilliant. But I still find an ethics based entirely from utility a little hard to swallow. Not that I can find a significant hole in the argument here...
Chris Nagel
Not quite as danceable as Hume's more popular Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, but still a mosh-pit-a-palooza-thon.
johanna asterisk
trying to teach this to my students who have a middle school vocabulary and understanding of english .. oh, why did i say yes?!
Jason Canada
everyone wants happiness. noone wants to suffer. to love is to bring happiness. you can't find that in a book.
On reste un peu sur sa faim. Mais j'ai bien aimé la comparaison des moeurs des anciens avec celle des modernes !
Got a little more than halfway through it, still couldn't find any theory of morals, just so much drivel.
If his essay on suicide is in any way related, then I'll probably be looking forward to this...
Never mind that he liked dirty pics. He was right-on on so many things.
I love Humes other work but this book was outright tedious.
Don't exactly agree, but interesting nevertheless.
Lane Wilkinson
it's all about the sentiment, baby.
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David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. He is an important figure in Western philosophy, and in the history of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Hume first gained recognition and respect as a historian, but academic interest in Hume's work has in recent years centered on his philosophical writing. His History of England was the standard work on English history for many years, unt...more
More about David Hume...
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding A Treatise of Human Nature Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion/The Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics) Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding/Concerning the Principles of Morals

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“Historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that, however specious these ideas of perfect equality may seem, they are really, at bottom, impracticable; and were they not so, would be extremely pernicious to human society. Render possessions ever so equal, men's different degrees of art, care, and industry will immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and instead of preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to the whole community. The most rigorous inquisition too is requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. But besides, that so much authority must soon degenerate into tyranny, and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly be possessed of it, in such a situation as is here supposed? Perfect equality of possessions, destroying all subordination, weakens extremely the authority of magistracy, and must reduce all power nearly to a level, as well as property.
We may conclude, therefore, that in order to establish laws for the regulation of property, we must be acquainted with the nature and situation of man; must reject appearances, which may be false, though specious; and must search for those rules, which are, on the whole, most useful and beneficial.”
“How little is requisite to supply the necessities of nature? And in a view to pleasure, what comparison between the unbought satisfaction of conversation, society, study, even health and the common beauties of nature, but above all the peaceful reflection on one's own conduct: What comparison, I say, between these, and the feverish, empty amusements of luxury and expense? These natural pleasures, indeed, are really without price; both because they are below all price in their attainment, an above it in their enjoyment.” 0 likes
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