David Hume


David Hume quotes about Life, Religion, Philosophy


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Quotes about David Hume


“Rousseau was mad but influential; Hume was sane but had no followers.”

– Bertrand Russell


“In every page of David Hume, there is more to be learned than from Hegel’s, Herbart’s and Schleiermacher’s complete philosophical works.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer


“Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.”

– Adam Smith

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David Hume Quotes about Art & Beauty


“It is a great mortification to the vanity of man, that his utmost art and industry can never equal the meanest of nature’s productions, either for beauty or value. Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to give a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces, which come from the hand of the master.”

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) Essay 15 : The Epicurean


Art may make a suit of clothes; but nature must produce a man.

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) Essay 15 : The Epicurean


“If nature has been frugal in her gifts and endowments, there is the more need of art to supply her defects. If she has been generous and liberal, know that she still expects industry and application on our part, and revenges herself in proportion to our negligent ingratitude. The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure and use of man, produces, to its slothful owner, the most abundant crop of poisons.”

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) Essay 16 : The Stoic


Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) Essay 23 : Of The Standard of Taste

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David Hume Quotes about History


“What would become of history, had we not a dependence on the veracity of the historian, according to the experience, what we have had of mankind?”

– David Hume


“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.”

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748), Essay 16 : The Stoic

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David Hume Quotes about Imagination


“Without this quality, by which the mind enlivens some ideas beyond others (which seemingly is so trivial, and so little founded on reason) we cou’d never assent to any argument, nor carry our view beyond those few objects, which are present to our senses. Nay, even to these objects we cou’d never attribute any existence, but what was dependent on the senses; and must comprehend them entirely in that succession of perceptions, which constitutes our self or person. Nay farther, even with relation to that succession, we cou’d only admit of those perceptions, which are immediately present to our consciousness, nor cou’d those lively images, with which the memory presents us, be ever receiv’d as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“This deficiency in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life, nor are we sensible, that in the most usual conjunctions of cause and effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate principle, which binds them together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary. But this proceeds merely from an illusion of the imagination; and the question is, how far we ought to yield to these illusions. This question is very difficult, and reduces us to a very dangerous dilemma, whichever way we answer it. For if we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy; beside that these suggestions are often contrary to each other; they lead us into such errors, absurdities, and obscurities, that we must at last become asham’d of our credulity. Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be compar’d to those angels, whom the scripture represents as covering their eyes with their wings. This has already appear’d in so many instances, that we may spare ourselves the trouble of enlarging upon it any farther.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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David Hume about Independence & Individuality


“A wise man’s kingdom is his own breast: or, if he ever looks farther, it will only be to the judgment of a select few, who are free from prejudices, and capable of examining his work. Nothing indeed can be a stronger presumption of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude; and Phocion, you know, always suspected himself of some blunder when he was attended with the applauses of the populace.”

– David Hume, Playfully ironic letter to Adam Smith regarding the positive reception of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”


“Nothing appears more surprizing to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, 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 to the most free and most popular.”

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748) Essay 4 : Of The First Principles of Government


“It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty, that this peculiar privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us, but must last as long as our government remains, in any degree, free and independent. It is seldom, that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Slavery has so frightful an aspect to men accustomed to freedom, that it must steal upon them by degrees, and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes, in order to be received. But, if the liberty of the press ever be lost, it must be lost at once. The general laws against sedition and libelling are at present as strong as they possibly can be made. Nothing can impose a farther restraint, but either the clapping an Imprimatur upon the press, or the giving to the court very large discretionary powers to punish whatever displeases them. But these concessions would be such a bare-faced violation of liberty, that they will probably be the last efforts of a despotic government. We may conclude, that the liberty of Britain is gone for ever when these attempts shall succeed.”

-David Hume, Essay 2 : Of the Liberty of the Press (early editions)


“I am first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in which I am plac’d in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expell’d all human commerce, and left utterly abandon’d and disconsolate. Fain wou’d I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me. Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats upon me from every side. I have expos’d myself to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults I must suffer? I have declar’d my disapprobation of their systems; and can I be surpriz’d, if they shou’d express a hatred of mine and of my person? When I look abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction. When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; tho’ such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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David Hume Quotes about Life

David Hume Quotes about Life & Philosophy

“He is happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”

― David Hume, On Suicide


“Though experience be our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact; it must be acknowledged, that this guide is not altogether infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead us into errors.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“The most perfect philosophy of the natural kind only staves off our ignorance a little longer: as perhaps the most perfect philosophy of the moral or metaphysical kind serves only to discover larger portions of it. Thus the observation of human blindness and weakness is the result of all philosophy, and meets us at every turn, in spite of our endeavours to elude or avoid it.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


 “Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escap’d shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe under these disadvantageous circumstances.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception…. If any one, upon serious and unprejudic’d reflection thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continu’d, which he calls himself; tho’ I am certain there is no such principle in me.”

– David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature


“Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? … I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

Most fortunately it happens, that since Reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, Nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends. And when, after three or four hours’ amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.”

– David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding


“Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.”

– David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding


“A propensity to hope and joy is real riches: One to fear and sorrow, real poverty.”

– David Hume, Moral, Political, Literary (1741-2; 1748), Essay 18 : The Sceptic

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David Hume Quotes about Morality


“Morality is a subject that interests us above all others: We fancy the peace of society to be at stake in every decision concerning it; and ’tis evident, that this concern must make our speculations appear more real and solid, than where the subject is, in a great measure, indifferent to us. What affects us, we conclude can never be a chimera; and as our passion is engag’d on the one side or the other, we naturally think that the question lies within human comprehension; which, in other cases of this nature, we are apt to entertain some doubt of. Without this advantage I never should have ventur’d upon a third volume of such abstruse philosophy, in an age, wherein the greatest part of men seem agreed to convert reading into an amusement, and to reject everything that requires any considerable degree of attention to be comprehended.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public utility is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise, either in philosophy or common life, concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from appearances, has been found to prevail; as soon as farther experience and sounder reasoning have given us juster notions of human affairs, we retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the boundaries of moral good and evil.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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David Hume Quotes about Nature


“Nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most suitable to the human race, and secretly admonished them to allow none of these biases to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them for other occupations and entertainments. Indulge your passion for science, says she, but let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“You need only look around you, replied PHILO, to satisfy yourself with regard to this question. A tree bestows order and organisation on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order; an animal in the same manner on its offspring; a bird on its nest; and instances of this kind are even more frequent in the world than those of order, which arise from reason and contrivance. To say, that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design, is begging the question; nor can that great point be ascertained otherwise than by proving, a priori, both that order is, from its nature, inseparably attached to thought; and that it can never of itself, or from original unknown principles, belong to matter.”

– David Hume


“It is a great mortification to the vanity of man, that his utmost art and industry can never equal the meanest of nature’s productions, either for beauty or value.”

– David Hume

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David Hume Quotes about Religion


“The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion. But the other question, concerning the origin of religion in human nature, is exposed to some more difficulty. The belief of invisible, intelligent power has been very generally diffused over the human race, in all places and in all ages; but it has neither perhaps been so universal as to admit of no exception, nor has it been, in any degree, uniform in the ideas, which it has suggested. Some nations have been discovered, who entertained no sentiments of Religion, if travellers and historians may be credited; and no two nations, and scarce any two men, have ever agreed precisely in the same sentiments.”

– David Hume, Quotes From The Natural History of Religion


“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.”

– David Hume


“The heroes in paganism correspond exactly to the saints in popery, and holy dervises in MAHOMETANISM. The place of, HERCULES, THESEUS, HECTOR, ROMULUS, is now supplied by DOMINIC, FRANCIS, ANTHONY, and BENEDICT. Instead of the destruction of monsters, the subduing of tyrants, the defence of our native country; whippings and fastings, cowardice and humility, abject submission and slavish obedience, are become the means of obtaining celestial honours among mankind.”

– David Hume, Quotes From The Natural History of Religion


“What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the supreme Being; and, from the visible works of nature, be enabled to infer so sublime a principle as its supreme Creator? But turn the reverse of the medal. Survey most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing but sick men’s dreams: Or perhaps will regard them more as the playsome whimsies of monkies in human shape, than the serious, positive, dogmatical asseverations of a being, who dignifies himself with the name of rational.”

– David Hume, Quotes From The Natural History of Religion


“Ignorance is the mother of Devotion: A maxim that is proverbial, and confirmed by general experience. Look out for a people, entirely destitute of religion: If you find them at all, be assured, that they are but few degrees removed from brutes. What so pure as some of the morals, included in some theological system? What so corrupt as some of the practices, to which these systems give rise?”

– David Hume, Quotes From The Natural History of Religion


“The same good sense, that directs men in the ordinary occurrences of life, is not hearkened to in religious matters, which are supposed to be placed altogether above the cognizance of human reason.”

– David Hume


“Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men? EPICURUS’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he(god) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?”

– David Hume


“Will you set up profane reason against sacred mystery? No punishment is great enough for your impiety. And the same fires, which were kindled for heretics, will serve also for the destruction of philosophers.”

– David Hume, Quotes From The Natural History of Religion


“Epicurus’s old questions are still unanswered: Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? then whence evil?”

– David Hume


“It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause”

– David Hume

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David Hume Quotes about Skepticism


“Nothing is more usual and more natural for those, who pretend to discover anything new to the world in philosophy and the sciences, than to insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those, which have been advanced before them. And indeed were they content with lamenting that ignorance, which we still lie under in the most important questions that can come before the tribunal of human reason, there are few, who have an acquaintance with the sciences that would not readily agree with them. ‘Tis easy for one of judgment and learning, to perceive the weak foundation even of those systems, which have obtained the greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest to accurate and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are everywhere to be met with in the systems of the most eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“When anyone 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. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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David Hume Quotes about Society


“Nothing appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, 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 to the most free and most popular.”

– David Hume, Quotes From Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary


“The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny ; flattery to treachery ; standing armies to arbitrary government ; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy.”

– David Hume, Quotes From Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary


“Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“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.”

– David Hume


“A chearful countenance infuses a sensible complacency and serenity into my mind; as an angry or sorrowful one throws a sudden dump upon me. Hatred, resentment, esteem, love, courage, mirth and melancholy; all these passions I feel more from communication than from my own natural temper and disposition. So remarkable a phaenomenon merits our attention, and must be trac’d up to its first principles.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the fancy or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their understanding. Happily, this pitch it seldom attains. But what a Tully or a Demosthenes could scarcely effect over a Roman or Athenian audience, every Capuchin, every itinerant or stationary teacher can perform over the generality of mankind, and in a higher degree, by touching such gross and vulgar passions.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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David Hume Quotes about Truth


“The truth springs from arguments amongst friends.”

– David Hume


Does a man of sense run after every silly tale of hobgoblins or fairies, and canvass particularly the evidence? I never knew anyone, that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not believe it before the end of his enquiries.

– David Hume, Letters


“What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call thought, that we must thus make it the model of the whole universe? Our partiality in our own favour does indeed present it on all occasions; but sound philosophy ought carefully to guard against so natural an illusion.”

– David Hume, Quotes From Dialogues concerning Natural Religion


“When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? 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.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. 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.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“For with what confidence can I venture upon such bold enterprises, when beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself, I find so many which are common to human nature? Can I be sure, that in leaving all established opinions I am following truth; and by what criterion shall I distinguish her, even if fortune shou’d at last guide me on her foot-steps? After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, I can give no reason why I shou’d assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong propensity to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they appear to me. Experience is a principle, which instructs me in the several conjunctions of objects for the past. Habit is another principle, which determines me to expect the same for the future; and both of them conspiring to operate upon the imagination, make me form certain ideas in a more intense and lively manner, than others, which are not attended with the same advantages.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


‘So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compar’d to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“THERE is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavour the refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretence of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality. When any opinion leads to absurdities, it is certainly false; but it is not certain that an opinion is false, because it is of dangerous consequence. Such topics, therefore, ought entirely to be forborne; as serving nothing to the discovery of truth, but only to make the person of an antagonist odious.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature


“To philosopher and historian the madness and imbecile wickedness of mankind ought to appear ordinary events.”

– David Hume


“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.”

– David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding


“Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.”

– David Hume, Quotes From A Treatise of Human Nature

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