An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding  

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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. -- An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

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An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding is a book by the Scottish empiricist and philosopher David Hume, published in 1748. It was a simplification of an earlier effort, Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, published anonymously in London in 17391740. Hume was disappointed with the reception of the Treatise' "fell dead-born from the press", as he put it) and so tried again to disseminate his ideas to the public by writing a shorter and more polemical work.

The end product of his labors was the Enquiry. The Enquiry dispensed with much of the material from the Treatise, in favor of clarifying and emphasizing its most important aspects. For example, Hume's views on personal identity, do not appear. However, more vital propositions -- such as Hume's argument for the role of habit in a theory of knowledge -- are retained.

This book was highly influential, both in the years that would immediately follow and today. Immanuel Kant points to it as the book which woke him from his self-described "dogmatic slumber". The Enquiry is widely regarded as a classic in modern philosophical literature.




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