An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and Other Works By David Hume

  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 6 hrs and 14 mins
  • Release date: 04-25-24

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and Other Works By David Hume AudioBook summary

In his autobiography, David Hume declared unequivocally that this work, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) is “of all my writings, historical, philosophical, or literary, incomparably the best.” In it, Hume takes the discussion away from traditional attitudes where either rational or metaphysical issues govern moral principles. Instead, he introduces the human factor, introducing the sentiments and passions inherent in human psychology.

In the opening paragraph of his Enquiry he states the ground clearly: “There has been a controversy started of late, much better worth examination, concerning the general foundation of Morals; whether they be derived from Reason, or from Sentiment; whether we attain the knowledge of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by an immediate feeling and finer internal sense; whether, like all sound judgement of truth and falsehood, they should be the same to every rational intelligent being; or whether, like the perception of beauty and deformity, they be founded entirely on the particular fabric and constitution of the human species.”

He challenges the notion that reason can dictate moral principles independently of our desires and sentiments, arguing instead that reason serves as a tool to navigate and articulate our moral sentiments. Central to Hume’s thesis is the concept of moral approbation and disapprobation, which he contends stem from our natural inclination to feel pleasure or aversion in response to certain actions or traits. He pursues his theme with characteristic clarity, concentrating on topics including benevolence, justice, utility, qualities useful to ourselves and others. He rejects moral absolutism which presumes the existence of immutable moral laws. Throughout, he emphasizes the importance of empathy and compassion as essential components of ethical behavior.


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