An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding
  • Publication Date: August 26, 2011
  • ISBN: 9781551118024 / 1551118025
  • 312 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2011
  • ISBN: 9781551118024 / 1551118025
  • 312 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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

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

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