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A Treatise of Human Nature

Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects

David Hume
Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton

January 2000

ISBN: 9780198751724

744 pages

Oxford Philosophical Texts

Price: £32.99

A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), David Hume's comprehensive attempt to base philosophy on a new, observationally grounded study of human nature, is one of the most important texts in Western philosophy. It is also the focal point of current attempts to understand 18th-century philosophy.



A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), David Hume's comprehensive attempt to base philosophy on a new, observationally grounded study of human nature, is one of the most important texts in Western philosophy. It is also the focal point of current attempts to understand 18th-century western philosophy. The Treatise addresses many of the most fundamental philosophical issues: causation, existence, freedom and necessity, and morality. The volume also includes Humes own abstract of the Treatise, a substantial introduction, extensive annotations, a glossary, a comprehensive index, and suggestions for further reading.

  • Part of the Oxford Philosophical Texts series
  • This is the first edition of the Treatise designed to help undergraduates gain access to the masterpiece of philosophy
  • Student aids found in the book are unique to this text and include a comprehensive introduction by a well-known Hume scholar, annotations, a glossary, guidance on further reading and a complete and reliable index to the Treatise.
  • Includes Hume's own Abstract of the Treatise
  • Text incorporates all of Hume's own corrections and restores his spelling.

About the Author(s)

David Hume

Edited by David Fate Norton, FRSC, Macdonald Professor of Moral Philosophy Emeritus, McGill University, and Mary J. Norton, independent scholar

Table of Contents

    How to Use this Book
    List of Abbreviations
    Editor's Introduction
    Hume's Early years and Education
    A Treatise of Human Nature
    The Experimental Method and the Science of Human Nature
    Book 1: Of the Understanding
    Book 1 part 1: The Elements of the Mental World
    Abstract Ideas
    Book 1 Part 2: The Ideas of Space and Time
    Book 1 Part 3: Knowledge, Probability, Belief, and Causation
    Relations Revisited
    The Relation of Causation
    Causes and Causal Reasoning
    Experience and Belief
    Belief in the Uniformity of Nature
    The Idea of Necessary Connection
    Book 1 Part 4: Forms of Scepticism
    External Objects
    Enduring Selves and Personal Identity
    The Conclusion of Book 1
    Book 2: Of the passions
    The Productive Passions
    The Responsive Passions
    Book 2 Part 1: The Indirect Passions of Pride and Humility
    The 'very essence' of Virtue and Beauty
    Unexercised Powers
    Book 2 Part 2: The Indirect Passions of Love and Hatred
    Passions and the Principles of Association
    The Compound Passions
    Passions and Relations
    Book 2 part 3: The Direct Passions and the Will
    The Will and its Influences
    The Direct Passions
    Book 3: Of Morals
    Book 3 Part 1: The Source of Moral Distinctions
    The Failure of Reason
    Moral Sentiments
    Book 3 Part 2: The Artificial Virtues
    Motives and Moral Qualities
    Additional Artificial Virtues
    Book 3 Part 3: Natural Virtues and Natural Abilities
    Natural Virtues
    Natural Abilities
    The Conclusion of Book 3
    The Abstract and the Early Reception of the Treatise
    Supplementary Reading
    A Note on the Texts of this Edition
    Book 1: Of the Understanding
    Part 1: Of ideas, their origin, composition, connexion, abstraction, etc.
    Sect. 1: Of the origin of our ideas
    Sect. 2: Division of the subject
    Sect. 3: Of the ideas of the memory and imagination
    Sect. 4: Of the connexion of association of ideas
    Sect. 5. Of relations
    Sect. 6 Of modes and substances
    Sect. 7: Of abstract ideas
    Part 2: Of ideas of space and time
    Sect. 1: Of the infinite divisibility of our ideas of space and time
    Sect. 2: Of the infinite divisibility of space and time
    Sect. 3. Of the other qualities of our ideas of space and time
    Sect. 4. Objections answered
    Sect. 5: The same subject continued
    Sect. 6: Of the idea of existence and of external existence
    Part 3: of knowledge and probability
    Sect. 1: Of knowledge
    Sect. 2. Of probability; and of the idea of cause and effect
    Sect. 3: Why a cause is always necessary
    Sect. 4: Of the component parts of our reasonings concerning cause and effect
    Sect. 5: Of the impressions of the senses and memory
    Section. 6: Of the inference from the impression to the idea
    Sect. 7: Of the nature of the idea or belief
    Sect. 8: Of the causes of belief
    Sect. 9: Of the effects of other relations and other habits
    Sect 10. Of the influence of belief
    Sect. 11: Of the probability of chances
    Sect. 12: Of the probability of causes
    Sect. 13: Of unphilosophical probability
    Sect. 14: Of the idea of necessary connexion
    Sect. 15: Rules by which to judge of causes and effects
    Sect. 16: Of the reason of animals
    Part 4: Of the sceptical and other systems of philosophy
    Sect. 1: Of scepticism with regard to reason
    Sect. 2: Of scepticism with regard to the senses
    Sect. 3. Of the ancient philosophy
    Sect 4. Of the modern philosophy
    Sect. 5: Of the immateriality of the soul
    Sect. 6: Of personal identity
    Sect. 7: Conclusion of this book
    Book 2: Of the Passions
    Part 1: Of pride and humility
    Sect. 1: Division of the subject
    Sect. 2: Of pride and humility; their objects and causes
    Sect. 3: Whence these objects and causes are derived
    Sect. 4: Of the relations of impressions and ideas
    Sect. 5: Of the influence of these relations on pride and humility
    Sect. 6: Limitations of this system
    Sect. 7: Of vice and virtue
    Sect. 8: Of beauty and deformity
    Sect. 9: Of external advantages and disadvantages
    Sect. 10: Of property and riches
    Sect. 11: Of the love of fame
    Sect. 12: Of the pride and humility of animals
    Part 2: Of love and hatred
    Sect. 1: Of the objects and causes of love and hatred
    Sect. 2: Experiments to confirm this system
    Sect. 3: Difficulties solved
    Sect. 4: Of the love of relations
    Sect. 5: Of our esteem for the rich and powerful
    Sect 6: Of benevolence and anger
    Sect. 7: Of compassion
    Sect. 8: Of malice and envy
    Sect. 9: Of the mixture of benevolence and anger with compassion and malice
    Sect. 10. Of respect and contempt
    Sect. 11: Of the amorous passion, or love betwixt the sexes
    Sect. 12: Of the love and hatred of animals
    Part 3: Of the will and direct passions
    Sect. 1: Of liberty and necessity
    Sect. 2: The same subject continued
    Sect. 3: Of the influencing motives of the will
    Sect. 4: Of the causes of the violent passions
    Sect. 5: Of the effects of custom
    Sect. Of the influence of the imagination on passions
    Sect. 7: Of contiguity and distance in space and time
    Sect. 8: The same subject continued
    Sect. 9: Of the direct passions
    Sect. 10: Of curiosity, or the love of truth
    Book 3: Of Morals
    Part 1: Of virtue and vice in general
    Sect. 1: Moral distinctions not derived from reason
    Sect. 2: Moral distinctions derived from a moral sense
    Part 2: Of justice and injustice
    Sect. 1: Justice, whether a natural or artificial virtue?
    Sect. 2: Of the origin of justice and property
    Sect. 3: Of the rules, which determine property
    Sect. 4: Of the transference of property by consent
    Sect. 5: Of the obligation of Hume conference flyer, Cambridge Sept 00 AP 14/10/00
    Sect. 6: Some farther reflections concerning justice and injustice
    Sect. 7: Of the origin of government
    Sect. 8: Of the source of allegiance
    Sect. 9: Of the measures of allegiance
    Sect. 10: Of the objects of allegiance
    Sect. 11: Of the laws of nations
    Sect. 12: Of chastity and modesty
    Part 3: Of the other virtues and vices
    Sect. 1: Of the origin of the natural virtues and vices
    Sect. 2: Of greatness of mind
    Sect. 3. Of goodness and benevolence
    Sect. 4: Of natural abilities
    Sect. 5: Some farther reflections concerning the natural virtues
    Sect. 6: Conclusion of this book
    An Abstract of ... A Treatise of Human Nature
    Editors' Annotations
    Annotations to the Treatise
    Annotations to the Abstract


These new Oxford University Press 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 greatest of all philosophical works, covering knowledge, imaginatio, emotion, morality and justice. Hume is down-to-earth, capable of putting other, pretentious philosophers down, but deeply sceptical even about his own reasoning. Baroness Warnock, The List, The Week -

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