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An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding 

An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

Written by: David Hume
Edited by: Lorne Falkenstein

Series: Broadview Editions

Publication Date: August 26, 2011
312pp • Paperback / PDF / ePub
ISBN: 9781551118024 / 1551118025

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Over a series of elegantly written, engaging essays, the Enquiry examines the experiential and psychological sources of meaning and knowledge, the foundations of reasoning about matters that lie beyond the scope of our sensory experience and memory, the nature of belief, and the limitations of our knowledge. The positions Hume takes on these topics have been described as paradigmatically empiricist, sceptical, and naturalist and have been widely influential and even more widely decried. 

The introduction to this edition discusses the Enquiry's origin, evolution, and critical reception, while appendices provide examples of contemporary responses to Hume.


"David Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding is a philosophical masterpiece that explores the nature of human cognition and the limits of our knowledge. This edition of the Enquiry helpfully puts the text in its historical context by presenting it alongside responses from Hume's most significant 18th-century critics: George Campbell, Thomas Reid, James Beattie, and Immanuel Kant. Lorne Falkenstein's incisive introduction and editorial comments offer readers, whether novice or expert, a sure hand as they navigate both the deceivingly straightforward text and the critics' responses." - Donald C. Ainslie, University of Toronto

"The 1758 edition of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding was the first to be grouped together with A Dissertation on the Passions, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, and The Natural History of Religion. This grouping well reflects Hume's ambition to recast his earlier Treatise on Human Nature, and brings into relief his explicit criticism of religion. In four appendices, Lorne Falkenstein has thoughtfully chosen selections by Hume's contemporaries who challenge Hume on the central topics of the Enquiry: perception and reasoning, causation, and miracles. Falkenstein adds helpful notes providing further historical context. This is an excellent edition for undergraduate and graduate courses, and will be a welcome new resource for scholars." - Jacqueline Taylor, University of San Francisco

Lorne Falkenstein is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario, and has published widely on eighteenth-century philosophy.

Table of Contents: [Back to Top]

Preface and Acknowledgements

Abbreviations and References


David Hume: A Brief Chronology

A Note on the Texts

Front Matter from the 1758 and 1777 Editions of Hume's Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects

An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

  • Section 1: Of the different Species of Philosophy

  • Section 2: Of the Origin of Ideas

  • Section 3: Of the Association of Ideas

  • Section 4: Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Understanding

  • Section 5: Sceptical Solution of these Doubts

  • Section 6: Of Probability

  • Section 7: Of the Idea of necessary Connexion

  • Section 8: Of Liberty and Necessity

  • Section 9: Of the Reason of Animals

  • Section 10: Of Miracles

  • Section 11: Of a particular Providence and of a future State

  • Section 12: Of the academical or sceptical Philosophy

Appendix A: From George Campbell, A Dissertation on Miracles (1762)

Appendix B: From Thomas Reid, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764) and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785)

Appendix C: From James Beattie, An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth (1774)

Appendix D: From Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1784) and The Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787)

Select Bibliography

Hume's Index to the Enquiry

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An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

2011 • 312pp • Paperback • 9781551118024 / 1551118025

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Broadview Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, and also acknowledges the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Freehand Books, an imprint of Broadview, acknowledges the support of the Canadian Council of the Arts.