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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  16,094 ratings  ·  410 reviews
David Hume's simplified version of his eralier work, "A Treatise of Human Nature". The Enquiry' conatined almost all of the material from the Treatise' in favor of clarifying and emphasizing its most important aspects
Kindle Edition, 84 pages
Published (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 Daugherty 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…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)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,094 ratings  ·  410 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Manny
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ariel
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"
...more
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
...more
Erick
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
...more
Jasmine
"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
...more
Maica
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Markus
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
...more
Ali Reda
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
...more
Ashvajit
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Andrew
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
...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 ...more
Chris
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
...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
It is ironic that Hume was known in his own time as a historian and his philosophical work was largely ignored while he was alive. We know him today for his philosophy, not his historical writing. He is part of British empiricists along with Locke, and Berkeley. He concluded their inquiries based on empirical knowledge. Hume's big points in this book are the problem of induction simply that we see one thing follow another we never see actual causes and we have maybe seen the sunrise in the ...more
Falk
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: featured, philosophy
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
...more
Andrew
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
...more
Adam
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' ...more
Eric 'siggy'
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Xander
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
...more
Michael Kress
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
James
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
...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.

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 ...more
White
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is perhaps the most sophisticated book on philosophy that has ever been published. In its core it touches on psychology, physics, and the physiology of the brain, biological claims to survival, and then some. This book portrays the science of philosophy.

As I go through my career, references to Hume come up in my thoughts. As I read psychology books, physics books, and such, references to Hume come up in my thoughts. Connections to Hume are everywhere. No other author has been so much
...more
Jeff Crompton
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read this book because a quote from it has long been one of the foundations of my thinking: "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence." That being said, I can't say that I completely followed Hume's reasoning - I have only dabbled in philosophy, and I'm not used to reading such densely-argued writing. The Enquiry is probably a book I should read again in order to gain a better grasp, but I can't see that happening anytime soon. I was able to appreciate Hume's emphasis on ...more
Caroline
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After his three-volume Treatise of Human Nature dropped like a rock to the bottom of the pool of British philosophic writing, Hume set out to write a briefer, more accessible version -- the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. One of the early points it makes is that most endeavors to write about the nature of thought are hopeless and nearly impossible to understand. With that disclaimer, Hume sets out to contradict himself by writing lucidly about, while candidly acknowledging the severe ...more
Jack
I read this as an ebook, which while convenient I feel is not the best medium for texts that need to be read and understood slowly while taking notes. Nonetheless, I was impressed by Hume’s prose style and look very much forward to reading Kant and seeing how he addresses the difficult questions Hume raised.
Roxanne Russell
When I made the final decision to pursue a PhD in Instructional Technology, I read this book in the months before starting as a way of plunging into the study of education. I don't think I could have chosen any better- excellent!

My book notes:

Section 1: On the different species of philosophy

In this section Hume distinguishes philosophy for the sake of philosophy from applied philosophy. He wishes to argue for a more scientific approach to exploring "human understanding."
p. 2 If they can discover
...more
Brianna Silva
This was my first ever philosophy book! While I didn't super-love this book, specifically, I am absolutely in love with the idea of reading philosophy, and I'm inspired to go back and read all the major works of philosophy, starting with Plato and Socrates.

I think, if I had read this book at the time it was written, I would have found it more profound. But, as much as I enjoyed the general experience of reading this, some parts haven't aged well in the nearly 300 years since then.

There are still
...more
Otto Lehto
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hume skewers the majority of his contemporaries by offering his clear and concise doctrine of skeptical empiricism. His hand is steady and calm, and his words are like steadfast arrows that he aims at the hithertofore impenetrable core of the rationalist fortress.

The book consists of largely two intervowen themes: anti-inductivistic empiricism and religious skepticism. While capable of being treated in isolation, they emerge from the same motivation: to encourage recognition of the limits of
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 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

  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  • Leviathan
  • Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
  • Critique of Pure Reason
  • Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous
  • Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • The Nicomachean Ethics
  • Being and Time
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Utilitarianism
  • Ethics
  • On Liberty
  • The Problems of Philosophy
  • Fear and Trembling
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
See similar books…
973 followers
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
...more
“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.” 161 likes
“Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” 118 likes
More quotes…