Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” as Want to Read:
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  17,949 ratings  ·  506 reviews
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by (first published 1748)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Terrence D. I know this was two years ago, but even so, it wouldn't hurt to explore Gordon Haddon Clark as well. As his works add significant material to the disc…moreI know this was two years ago, but even so, it wouldn't hurt to explore Gordon Haddon Clark as well. As his works add significant material to the discussion on epistemology.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,949 ratings  ·  506 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever wondered about the nature of truth
I had seen so many references to Hume's Enquiry that I almost thought I had read it; but, when I actually got around to opening the book, I found as usual that things were not quite as I had imagined. I was not surprised by his relentless scepticism, or by his insistence on basing all reasoning on empirical evidence. These qualities, after all, have become proverbial. I was, however, surprised to find that I hadn't correctly grasped the essence of his argument concerning the nature of knowledge. ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I had to read this for my class "A Prehistory of Affect: Reading the Passions." It was a pretty panicked situation: I got randomly chosen to do a 30 minute presentation on this text... in the first week of my Masters. I had one week to read the Enquiry and prepare my presentation. It was incredibly stressful. I've never read philosophy, I'm very unfamiliar with the 18th century, and I had been out of school for year and a half. Talk about being kicked back into gear.

I don't know how to "rate"
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hume is one of the best, most quotable and reasonable philosophers of all time. Besides Schopenhauer and maybe Plato, no one had a greater mind. He was not quite the lucid prosodist Arthur was, and not quite the poet Plato was, but when it comes to directing humanity away from superstition and toward rational thinking, maybe none have done as much. A friend of Rousseau's and a great historian to boot, David Hume's writings are a pleasure to read. ...more
I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Hume is both pretentious and self-indulgent. While he makes a good case for experience being a necessary prerequisite for knowing effect from cause, he also contradicts himself variously and accords to experience more authority than he accredits it in certain other parts of this book.
That a certain effect has happened numerous times before is no guarantee that it will happen again -true enough! Hume says that it is simply "custom" to credit any particular
Ade Bailey
Returning to an old friend! The first text I was given to study as a philosophy undergraduate, and what pleasure to revisit.

I'm not sure that Hume changed my thinking as a young man so much as brought the delight of recognition. The sweeping away of superstition, fantasy systems, spiritual mumbo jumbo and so on has never for me disabled a propensity towards reflection or deep attachment to a cleaner, less encumbered mystery. Kant, too, found his religious faith strengthened by such clarity.

I was
"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." (p.120)

(*) Burning had long been a common fate of atheistic books. Perhaps Hume is suggesting here that the wrong books have been destroyed... (from th
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ali Reda
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Hume discusses the distinction between impressions and ideas. By "impressions", he means sensations, while by "ideas", he means memories and imaginings. According to Hume, the difference between the two is that ideas are less vivacious than impressions. For example, the idea of the taste of an orange is far inferior to the impression (or sensation) of actually eating one. Writing within the tradition of empiricism, he argues that impressions are the source of all ideas. Hume's empiricism consist ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding
David Hume (1711-1776)

Hume’s philosophy on understanding is based on reasoning from experimental experience, but also from knowledge gained from tradition and customary behaviour.

He visibly draws on knowledge of a wide range of classical and contemporary thinkers, whose views are often interwoven and more easily assimilated in combination.

Hume declined any resemblance to religious school metaphysics and favoured a limited sceptic approach to science depen
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the straightforward, no-nonsense style of this famous philosopher. Good though he is, however, his vision of life is that of pure empiricism - that all real knowledge is gained only through sense contact. In other words he appears to completely disregard a vital aspect of the human consciousness, i.e. the possibility of gaining knowledge through contemplating the mind itself, for instance through the practice of mindfulness and meditation. Furthermore he discounts the possibility of re ...more
Rowland Pasaribu
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bertrand Russell famously summarized Hume's contribution to philosophy, saying that he "developed to its logical conclusion the empiricist philosophy of Locke and Berkeley, and by making it self-consistent made it incredible." Hume is remarkable in that he does not shy away from conclusions that might seem unlikely or unreasonable. Ultimately, he concludes that we have no good reason to believe almost everything we believe about the world, but that this is not such a bad thing. Nature helps us t ...more
Laura Noggle
“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."

Best summary I've seen:

*As intriguing today as when it was first published, Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is a fascinating exploration into the nature of human knowledge. Using billiard balls, candles and other colorful examples, Hume conveys the core of hi
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Hume eviscerates the belief that we can understand anything about the world on a rational and certain basis. At his most optimistic, Hume argues that all knowledge beyond direct observation is probable rather than certain. This was an important chastenment of Enlightenment rationalism, and is generally accepted today.

But Hume's argument seems to go much farther, and the more optimistic later sections are the result of his either not recognizing the strength of his earlier arguments or deliberatl
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago I had, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. I was completely unsatisfied with the explanations for existence/purpose that I had been given by parents/teachers/friends. It terrified me that no one had ever written about this concerns (obviously people had, I was just never introduced to them). I felt like an idiot for allowing my mind to dwell on concepts such as the basis of human understanding.

It's nice, it's calming to know that extremely intelligent people, and ma
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, classics
"After all, I may, perhaps, agree to your general conclusion in favour of liberty, though upon different premises from those, on which you endeavour to found it. I think, that the state ought to tolerate every principle of philosophy; nor is there an instance, that any government has suffered in its political interests by such indulgence. There is no enthusiasm among philosophers; their doctrines are not very alluring to the people; and no restraint can be put upon their reasonings, but what mus ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) was David Hume's second attempt to offer readers his view on epistemology. A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) was no succes and Hume even suffered from a depression following this failure. Nevertheless, he was convinced of the importance of the message, so he decided to publish its contents in two new, thinner and more accessible books.

In order to understand Hume's message, we have to understand the historical context of the book. In the 17th centu
Jun 06, 2011 added it
Shelves: philosophy
What I like about Hume is the skepticism and empiricism. What I don't like about Hume is the doubting of causality. Too bad this is pretty much thought of as the Hume thing.

Hume was a very, very necessary step in the evolution of philosophy. He overcame the irrational rationalism of Descartes and Berkeley, and paved the way for German idealism, which of course led to Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, etc. And really, I find Hume's brand of Enlightenment thought so much more palatable than Kant's or
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, featured
It is rare that I read an entire book twice in a row, but I made an exception for Hume's Enquiry. Yes, he’s that good. – I wasn’t quite as happy with the Kindle version of this book though, since there are no direct links in the text to Hume's own notes - which doesn’t exactly allow for a smooth reading experience.
The Oxford World’s Classics edition includes the Abstract of the Treatise of Human Nature, the essay Of the Immortality of the Soul, excerpts from letters and from the Dialogues conce
Michael Kress
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, 1700s
It was recommended that I read this because David Hume influenced Kant and it would help me understand the concepts in Critique of Pure Reason. He's certainly an influential figure; in fact, without him, there would probably be no Arthur Schopenhauer, my favorite philosopher ever. He also influenced Albert Einstein, and I can see how this book was revolutionary in the science world. Sometimes it seemed more like a science book than a philosophy book. But I felt as if I was already familiar with ...more
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a bit pointless to try to comment on this book, especially considering how much scholarship there is on Hume and how widely studied he still is by the intellectually curious and in Philosophy departments. He is an amazingly advanced thinker for the time, and is still important today, partly because although he doesn't seem to like Spinoza or any of the Rationalists, most of the basis for contemporary psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience is found in these two great philosophers' wr ...more
Eric 'siggy'
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics
Hume's Enquiry is a landmark document in epistemology, the study of what distinguishes justified beliefs from unjustified ones. It's about sixty pages, and is a rewriting of the first part of his more monolithic Treatise of Human Nature (1737), which he started writing at about my age (23!) and published three years later.

In short, the book aligns very well with the thinking of modern secular humanism -- and parts of it cover very similar ideas to what you'd find in contemporary skeptic and athe
Jan 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Decent read for those interested in the history of philosophy and much easier to read than the treatise in my opinion. I only really read this to support my study of Kant but its alright. Hume's writing can lack a certain systematicity but its worth reading just to get it under your belt. ...more
James Henderson
Dec 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is David Hume's summary of his central doctrines and themes of his empiricist philosophy. It was a revision of an earlier effort, A Treatise of Human Nature, published anonymously in London in 1739–40. Hume was disappointed with the reception of the Treatise, which "fell stillborn from the press," as he put it, and so he tried again to disseminate a more developed version of his ideas to the public by writing a shorter and more polemical work.
The end product of his labours was the Enquiry w
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Two things that stands out in this installment is: causality and limitations of imaginations and human observation. Though Hume starts out saying how unlimited and infinite imagination is, he adds a caveat in his typical subtle fashion stating how the limitation to this imagination comes from both creative and knowledge of a person. Without both in right measures, it's possible the imagination is limited and perhaps incomplete. Kinda how science fiction goes hand in hand with social and technolo ...more
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
every time i read hume, i feel a little nauseated. my nausea is accordingly constantly conjoined to my reading of hume. am i reasonable or not in assuming a necessary connection therewith? is it irrational to assume that nausea will always follow the reading in the future just because it always has done so in the past? even if in the past the future has always been like the past, and so i can assume that in the future the past will have always been like the future, indeed, constantly conjoined w ...more
Dave Peticolas
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Hume's classic philosphical investigation into the nature and limits of human knowledge and its acquisition.

David Hume (1711-1776) was the most famous Scottish philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment and one of the greatest thinkers of all time. He wrote An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding in 1774. This was actually a simplified, more easy to understand version of his famous work, A Treatise of Human Nature . An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding was more accessible to people of the day and is also for us modern folks.

Hume addresses a number of subjects in this book. Particularly interesti
Dan Graser
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hume's masterpiece of empiricism, "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding," is a philosophical breath of fresh air and a justly revered and studied work. Full of crystal-clear thinking on a variety of subjects, though most focused on the necessity of understanding the limits of our reason and the necessity to understand the experiential learning/customs we share with the rest of the fauna of the natural world, the final three sections specifically, "Of miracles," "Of a particular providence a ...more
Samuel Bierig
Feb 24, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Good writer. Super bitter and angry. He is not correct at all.
Sidharth Vardhan
Somwhere in this book Hume reminds us to "Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man" - it is a kind of thing you would say to a philospher rather than hear from same. Hume does maintain on this principle and while he is not afraid of going into abstract reasonings and doubts for mere pleasure of doing so; he is always willing, rather he insists we keep coming back to our daily life to check validity of our conclusions.

He goes on to prove that all our knowledge is derived
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover 2 10 May 21, 2019 11:11AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please Combine 2 29 Oct 30, 2012 03:15PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
  • Meditations on First Philosophy
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • Leviathan
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  • Critique of Pure Reason
  • Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous
  • Ethics
  • Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies
  • Utilitarianism
  • The Social Contract
  • The Nicomachean Ethics
  • The Problems of Philosophy
  • On Liberty
  • Being and Time
  • Second Treatise of Government
See similar books…
See top shelves…
David Hume was a Scottish historian, philosopher, economist, diplomat and essayist known today especially for his radical philosophical empiricism and scepticism.

In light of Hume's central role in the Scottish Enlightenment, and in the history of Western philosophy, Bryan Magee judged him as a philosopher "widely regarded as the greatest who has ever written in the English language." While Hume fa

Related Articles

  Luvvie Ajayi Jones—author, cultural critic, digital entrepreneur—might be best described as a professional truthteller. Her crazily popular...
53 likes · 0 comments
“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.” 177 likes
“Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” 138 likes
More quotes…