David Hume

David Hume
David Hume
  • Born: May 7, 1711
  • Died: August 25, 1776
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Profession: Philosopher

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83

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314

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David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. Hume's empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, George Berkeley, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behaviour. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is founded solely in experience.

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… in contriving any system of government and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this interest we must govern him and, by means of it, make him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, cooperate to public good. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
… to escape censure a man must pass his whole life without saying or doing one ill or foolish thing. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
… vulgar motive of national antipathy ... States. Nations & Nationhood
A man acquainted with history may, in some respect, be said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge in every century. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Respect ;History
A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow real poverty Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Miscellaneous
After the subjection of Ireland by [Queen] Elizabeth, the more difficult task still remained; to civilize the barbarous inhabitants, to reconcile them to law and industry Ulster, from being the most wild and disorderly province of all Ireland, soon became the best cultivated and most civilized. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
All advantages are attended with disadvantages. Miscellaneous
All free governments must consist of two councils, a lesser and a greater. Legislating & Legislative Process
All kings of England had ever, in cases of necessity or expediency, been accustomed, at intervals, to elude them [the laws.] Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Ambition … is the most incurable and inflexible of all human passions. Human Nature
America has sent us many good things, gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, indigo, but you are the first philosopher, and indeed, the first man of letters for whom we are beholden to her. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Among well-bred people a mutual deference is affected, contempt for others is disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
As force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as the most free and the most popular. Public Opinion & Polling ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
As it is necessary, that imposts should be levied, for the support of government, it may be thought more convenient to lay them on foreign commodities, which can easily be intercepted at the port, and subjected to the impost Taxes
Avarice, the spur of industry. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Capitalism
Children will be kept in much better order, be better provided for, and from infancy be inured to work, which is of no small consequence to the making of them sober and industrious all their lives after. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Eloquence, at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection, but addresses itself entirely to the desires and affections, captivating the willing hearers, and subduing their understanding. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Enormous monarchies are probably destructive to human nature in their progress, in their continuance and even in their own downfall. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
Even under absolute princes, the subordinate government of cities is commonly republican while that of counties and provinces is monarchical. Miscellaneous
Every wise, just, and mild government, by rendering the condition of its subjects easy and secure, will always abound most in people, as well as in commodities and riches States. Nations & Nationhood
Everything in the world is purchased by labor. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Extensive conquests, when pursued, must be the ruin of every free government. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
For my part, I esteem liberty so valuable a blessing in society, that whatever favor, its progress and security can scares be too fondly cherished by every one who is a lover of human kind Freedom & Liberty
Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous. Religion & God
How few are there, who, having a family, children, and relations, do not spend more on the maintenance and education of these than on their own pleasures Human Nature
If he [the ruler] admits only one religion among his subjects, he must sacrifice, to an uncertain prospect of tranquility, every consideration of public liberty, science, reason, industry, and even his own independence. If he gives indulgence to several sects, which is the wiser maxim, he must preserve a very philosophical indifference to all of them and carefully restrain the pretensions of the prevailing sect; otherwise he can expect nothing but endless disputes, quarrels, factions, persecutions, and civil commotions Religion & God
If the coin be locked up in chests, it is the same thing with regard to prices, as if it were annihilated; if the commodities be hoarded in magazines and granaries, a like effect follows. As the money and commodities, in these cases, never meet, they cannot affect each other. Money, Coins & Minting
If workmen become scarce, the manufacturer gives higher wages, but at first requires an encrease of labour; and this is willingly submitted to by the artisan, who can now eat and drink better, to compensate his additional toil and fatigue. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
In most national debates, though the reasons may not be equally balanced, yet there are commonly some plausible which may be pleaded, even in favor of the weaker side. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
In prosecution of his holy purposes, he overlooked every human consideration. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
It has always been found, that the virtuous are far from being indifferent to praise. Human Nature
It is easy to observe, that all calculations concerning the balance of trade are founded on very uncertain facts and suppositions. Foreign Trade
It is harder to avoid censure than to gain applause. Public Relations & Image
It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Freedom & Liberty
Legislative power is always superior to the executive. Intergovernmental Relations
Liberty is a blessing so inestimable, that, wherever there appears any probability of recovering it, a nation may willingly run many hazards, and ought not even to repine at the greatest effusion of blood or dissipation of treasure. Freedom & Liberty
Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power… Freedom & Liberty
Luxury, or a refinement on the pleasures and conveniences of life, has long been supposed the source of every corruption in government, and the immediate cause of faction, sedition, civil wars, and the total loss of liberty. Corruption
Men often act knowingly against their interest Human Nature
Money is not, properly speaking, one of the subjects of commerce; but only the instrument which men have agreed upon to facilitate the exchange of one commodity for another Money, Coins & Minting
Most people resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers Human Nature
No part of civil administration required greater care or nicer judgment than the conduct of religious parties. Political Parties & Machines
Nothing appears more surprising ... than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few. Miscellaneous ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
Nothing is more usual than to see parties, which have begun upon a real difference, continue even after that difference is lost Political Parties & Machines
Of all sciences there is none where first appearances are more deceitful than in politics Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Social Sciences
Parties from principle, especially abstract, speculative principle, are known only to modern times, and are, perhaps, the most extraordinary and unaccountable phenomenon, that has yet appeared in human affairs. Political Parties & Machines
Prices of every thing depend on the proportion between commodities and money, and that any considerable alteration on either has the same effect, either of heightening or lowering the price. Money, Coins & Minting
Public liberty, with internal peace and order, has flourished almost without interruption. States. Nations & Nationhood
Scandal [criticism and slander] against the great, though seldom prosecuted at present, is however, in the eye of the law, a great crime, and subjects the offender to very heavy penalties. Media, Journalism & The Press
Such violent propensity have men to complain of the present times. History
Superstition is an enemy to civil liberty Freedom & Liberty
The ages of greatest public spirit are not always eminent for private virtue. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The carelessness and negligence of the governments of the world, which wholly intent upon the care of aggrandizing themselves, at the same time neglect the happiness of the people and with it their own peace and security. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: and whoever is moved by faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The civil wars which arose some few years ago in Morocco between the Blacks and Whites, merely on account of their complexion, are founded on a pleasant difference. We laugh at them; but, I believe, were things rightly examined, we afford much more occasion of ridicule to the Moors. For, what are all the wars of religion, which have prevailed in this polite and knowing part of the world? They are certainly more absurd than the Moorish civil wars. The difference of complexion is a sensible and a real difference; but the controversy about an article of faith, which is utterly absurd and unintelligible, is not a difference in sentiment, but in a few phrases and expressions, which one party accepts of without understanding them, and the other refuses in the same manner.... Besides, I do not find that the Whites in Morocco ever imposed on the Blacks any necessity of altering their complexion . . . nor have the Blacks been more unreasonable in this particular. Religion & God
The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst. Corruption
The great end of all human industry, is the attainment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sciences cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modelled, by the most profound wisdom of patriots and legislators. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny. Power ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Citizenship & Patriotism
The increase of riches and commerce and commerce in any one nation, instead of hurting, commonly promotes the riches and commerce of all its neighbors. Foreign Trade
The nation was very little accustomed at that time [1625] to the burden of taxes, and had never opened their purses in any degree for supporting their sovereign. Taxes
The people, ever greedy for war, till they suffer by it … War & Peace
The power of imprisonment … being the most natural and potent engine of arbitrary government, it is absolutely necessary to remove it from a government which is free and legal. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The power of taxing themselves is an undoubted and most important privilege of the people of England. Taxes
The public was entirely free of the great danger and expense of a standing army. Defense & National Security
There are certain sects, which secretly form themselves in the learned world, as well as factions in the political; and though sometimes they come not to an open rupture, they give a different turn to the ways of thinking of those who have taken part on either side. Political Parties & Machines
There seems to be a happy concurrence of causes in human affairs, which checks the growth of trade and riches, and hinders them from being confined entirely to one people. Money, Coins & Minting
To abolish all distinctions of party may not be practicable, perhaps not desirable, in a free government Political Parties & Machines
To balance a large state or society, whether monarchial or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
We find few disputes, that are not founded on some ambiguity in the expression [thereof]. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Were our narrow and malignant politics [protectionism] to meet with success, we should reduce all our neighboring nations to the same state of sloth and ignorance that prevails in Morocco and the coast of Barbary. Foreign Trade
When any one tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
When any opinion leads to absurdity, it is certainly false; but it is not certain that an opinion is false because it is of dangerous consequence. Miscellaneous
When men are most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken. Human Nature
When we consider how nearly equal all men are in their bodily force, and even in their mental powers and faculties, till cultivated by education, we must necessarily allow that nothing but their own consent could at first associate them together and subject them to any authority. Equality & Equal Opportunity
When we reason upon general subjects, one may justly affirm, that our speculations can scarce ever be too fine, provided they be just. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Where differences of interest is removed, whimsical and unaccountable factions often arise, from personal favour or enmity. Political Parties & Machines
Where great evils lie on all sides, it is very difficult to follow the best counsel. Policy & Policy Making
Where one nation has gotten the start of another in trade, it is very difficult for the latter to regain the ground it has lost; because of the superior industry and skill of the former, and the greater stocks, of which its merchants are possessed, and which enable them to trade on so much smaller profits. But these advantages are compensated, in some measure, by the low price of labour in every nation which has not an extensive commerce… Development & Growth
Without a militia, it is in vain to think that any free government will ever have security or stability. Military & Veterans
Without money no alliance can be executed. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow real poverty. Hope
A purpose, an intention, a design, strikes everywhere even the careless, the most stupid thinker.
Accuracy is, in every case, advantageous to beauty, and just reasoning to delicate sentiment. In vain would we exalt the one by depreciating the other.
And what is the greatest number? Number one.
Any person seasoned with a just sense of the imperfections of natural reason, will fly to revealed truth with the greatest avidity. Truth
Be a philosopher but, amid all your philosophy be still a man.
Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.
Beauty, whether moral or natural, is felt, more properly than perceived.
Belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady conception of an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able to attain.
Character is the result of a system of stereotyped principals.
Custom is the great guide to human life. Life
Every wise, just, and mild government, by rendering the condition of its subjects easy and secure, will always abound most in people, as well as in commodities and riches. Government
He is happy whom circumstances suit his temper; but he Is more excellent who suits his temper to any circumstance.
Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.
Human Nature is the only science of man; and yet has been hitherto the most neglected. Nature ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I have written on all sorts of subjects... yet I have no enemies; except indeed all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.
It is a just political maxim, that every man must be supposed a knave.
It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.
It is not reason which is the guide of life, but custom. Life
It's when we start working together that the real healing takes place... it's when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.
Men are much oftener thrown on their knees by the melancholy than by the agreeable passions.
Men often act knowingly against their interest.
No advantages in this world are pure and unmixed.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.
Nothing endears so much a friend as sorrow for his death. The pleasure of his company has not so powerful an influence. Death
Nothing is more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.
Philosophy would render us entirely Pyrrhonian, were not nature too strong for it. Nature
Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.
Scholastic learning and polemical divinity retarded the growth of all true knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise.
The advantages found in history seem to be of three kinds, as it amuses the fancy, as it improves the understanding, and as it strengthens virtue. History
The chief benefit, which results from philosophy, arises in an indirect manner, and proceeds more from its secret, insensible influence, than from its immediate application.
The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Religion & God
The law always limits every power it gives. Power
The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster. Life
The rules of morality are not the conclusion of our reason.
There is a very remarkable inclination in human nature to bestow on external objects the same emotions which it observes in itself, and to find every where those ideas which are most present to it. Nature
There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;History
This avidity alone, of acquiring goods and possessions for ourselves and our nearest friends, is insatiable, perpetual, universal, and directly destructive of society. Society
To be a philosophical sceptic is, in a man of letters, the first and most essential to being a sound, believing Christian.
To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Truth springs from argument amongst friends. Truth
What a peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call 'thought'.