David Hume Analysis

Implications for Ethical Conduct

The implications of Hume’s thought are threefold. First, Hume broke the individual’s tie with God and transferred it to society. Punishment and rewards were immediate, not confined to the hereafter. Second, Hume invited human society to create its own system of ethics. Third, rather than being static, based on values created by other societies in other times, ethics and morality are organic and ever-changing. Since ethics are subjective, it is society that determines their applicability.


Ayer, A. J. Hume: A Very Short Introduction. 1980. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. This brief introduction to Hume’s life is both well written and useful. The chapter on aims and methods is especially good.

Box, M. A. A Suasive Art of David Hume. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. Looks at Hume’s works as literature in the context of intellectual history.

Chappell, V. C., ed. Hume: A Collection of Critical Essays. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966. This collection of twenty-one essays by such acknowledged authorities as Ernest Mossner and Anthony Flew is valuable to students of Hume.

Flage, Daniel E. David Hume’s Theory of Mind. New York: Routledge, 1990. Hume’s theory of understanding and philosophy of mind—his two most important contributions to philosophy and psychology—are thoroughly discussed.

Herdt, Jennifer A. Religion and Faction in Hume’s Moral Philosophy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Herdt takes a new look at Hume’s writings about religion and suggests a new interpretation.

Jenkins, John J. Understanding Hume. Edited by Peter Lewis and Geoffrey Madell. Lanham, Md.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1992. Offers a short biography, then spends the bulk of the book discussing Hume’s philosophy, primarily by explicating Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature.


(The entire section is 436 words.)