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London: Printed for John Noon, at the White-Hart, near Mercer's Chapel in Cheapside; for Thomas Longman at the Ship in Pater-noster Row, 1739; 1740. 2 volumes. Rare First Edition of each volume. Hume's first and greatest work. 8vo (20.3 cm x 12.5 cm; (20 cm x 12.5 cm), bound in rarely encountered original contemporary polished calf, the upper covers with double fillet surrounding lines gilt, the spines with raised bands ruled in gilt, volume numbers in gilt. Vol. I: [ii] - blank, title-page, [ii] - Advertisement, [iii] - Contents, [i] - Errata of Vol. I & II, 475, [1] - Publisher's Advert. With P1 cancelled; Vol. III: title page, advertisement, Contents, Errata, 1-281, [283 blank], 284 - 310 appendix, [A4 and F6 in the uncancelled state]. A very handsome and pleasing set in rare original calf, the text-blocks crisp, unpressed and clean, old ownership signature excised from the title-pages hinges strong though with some wear or cracking, edges generally in fine order, the tips and extremities with some light wear or rubbing, a bit of wear to the head-caps. Nice old presentation inscriptions to the pastedowns. EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT FIRST EDITION OF BOTH VOLUMES I AND III. COPIES ARE SELDOM SEEN OFFERED IN COMMERCE. VOLUMES BOUND IN THE ORIGINAL CALF OF THE PERIOD, AS HERE, ARE ESPECIALLY ELUSIVE. Hume called A Treatise of Human Nature: "a work which the Author had projected before he left College, and which he wrote and published not long after. But not finding it successful, he was sensible of his error in going to the press too early, and he cast the whole anew... where some negligences in his former reasoning and more in the expression, [were], he hopes, corrected." [Author's Introduction] 'Hume's introduction presents the idea of placing all science and philosophy on a novel foundation: namely, an empirical investigation into human psychology. He begins by acknowledging "that common prejudice against metaphysical reasonings [i.e., any complicated and difficult argumentation]", a prejudice formed in reaction to "the present imperfect condition of the sciences" (including the endless scholarly disputes and the inordinate influence of "eloquence" over reason). But since the truth "must lie very deep and abstruse" where "the greatest geniuses" have not found it, careful reasoning is still needed. All sciences, Hume continues, ultimately depend on "the science of man": knowledge of "the extent and force of human understanding,... the nature of the ideas we employ, and... the operations we perform in our reasonings" is needed to make real intellectual progress. So Hume hopes "to explain the principles of human nature", thereby "propos[ing] a compleat system of the sciences, built on a foundation almost entirely new, and the only one upon which they can stand with any security." But an a priori psychology would be hopeless: the science of man must be pursued by the experimental methods of the natural sciences. This means we must rest content with well-confirmed empirical generalizations, forever ignorant of "the ultimate original qualities of human nature". And in the absence of controlled experiments, we are left to "glean up our experiments in this science from a cautious observation of human life, and take them as they appear in the common course of the world, by men's behaviour in company, in affairs, and in their pleasures." In Book I: Of the Understanding, Hume begins by arguing that each simple idea is derived from a simple impression, so that all our ideas are ultimately derived from experience: thus Hume accepts concept empiricism and rejects the purely intellectual and innate ideas found in rationalist philosophy. Hume's doctrine draws on two important distinctions: between impressions (the forceful perceptions found in experience, "all our sensations, passions and emotions") and ideas (the faint perceptions found in "thinking and reasoning"), and between complex perceptions (which can be distinguished into simpler parts) and simple perceptions (which cannot). In Book II: Of the Passions (not present here), Hume begins by recalling Book I's distinction between impressions of sensation ("original impressions", arising from physical causes outside the mind) and impressions of reflection ("secondary impressions", arising from other perceptions within the mind), examining only the latter. He divides these "reflective impressions"--"the passions, and other emotions resembling them"--into "the calm and the violent" (nearly imperceptible emotions of "beauty and deformity", and turbulent passions we experience more strongly) and into "direct and indirect" (depending on how complicated the causal story behind them is). Pride and humility are indirect passions, and Hume's account of the two is his leading presentation of the psychological mechanisms responsible for the indirect passions. In Book III: Hume begins by examining the nature of moral evaluation, offering a critique of moral rationalism and a defense of moral sentimentalism: in the terms of his overall system, Hume is arguing that the evaluations in our mind are impressions, not ideas. His main target is the rationalism of such philosophers as Clarke and Balguy, which posits "eternal fitnesses and unfitnesses of things, which are the same to every rational being that considers them", in effect classifying morality alongside mathematics under "relations of ideas". Hume's principal arguments against this rationalism rest on Book 2's thesis that there is no opposition between reason and the passions: reason alone cannot motivate us, and "passions, volitions, and actions" cannot be in agreement or disagreement with reason. This thesis "proves directly", he writes, that an action's moral status cannot consist in the action's agreement or disagreement with reason, and it "proves indirectly" that moral evaluation, which has a practical influence on us and can "excite passion[s] and produce or prevent actions", cannot be "the offspring of reason". Nor can the morality of an action be founded on the true or false judgments causally linked to it: no immoral action is wrong due to its arising from a mistake of fact, or (contra Wollaston) due to its causing false judgments in others. The conclusion of Book 3, and therefore the Treatise as a whole, briefly recapitulates the reasoning for Hume's thesis that "sympathy is the chief source of moral distinctions". Indeed, most would agree that justice and "the useful qualities of the mind" are valued for their usefulness, and what besides sympathy can explain why we care about the public good or "the happiness of strangers"? This "system of ethics" is not only supported by "solid argument", Hume adds, but it can help moralists show the "dignity" and the "happiness" of virtue. First, it puts morality in a good light to see it derived from "so noble a source" as sympathy: we end up approving of virtue, the sense of virtue, and even the psychological principles underlying the sense of virtue. And while the artificiality of justice may seem unattractive at first, this disappears when we remember that since "[t]he interest, on which justice is founded, is the greatest imaginable, and extends to all times and place", therefore the rules of justice are "stedfast and immutable; at least, as immutable as human nature". Secondly, a life of virtue pays off quite well, bringing immediate advantages, an enhanced social reputation, and the "inward satisfaction" of a mind able to "bear its own survey". So, while Hume presents himself as a theoretical "anatomist" who dissects human psychology into ugly bits, his work is well-suited for the practical "painter" who styles morality into a beautiful and inviting ideal.' Wikimedia Foundation
      [Bookseller: Buddenbrooks, Inc.]
Last Found On: 2018-02-26           Check availability:      Biblio    


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