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Quotes of the day: David Hume

Published Tuesday, May 07, 2013 @ 1:11 AM EDT
May 07 2013

David Hume (May 7, 1711 - August 25, 1776) was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. (Click for full Wikipedia article).


A little philosophy makes a man an Atheist: a great deal converts him to religion.

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

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

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

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

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

Custom, then, is the great guide of human life.

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.

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

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

Hear the verbal protestations of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives: You will scarcely think that they repose the smallest confidence in them.

Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.

Here am I who have written on all sorts of subjects calculated to excite hostility, moral, political, and religious, and yet I have no enemies- except, indeed, all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.

Hypothetical liberty is allowed to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.

In all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to liberty; and it is certain, that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and ambition.

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.

It is seldom, that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.

It is, therefore, a just political maxim, that every man must be supposed a knave: Though at the same time, it appears somewhat strange, that a maxim should be true in politics, which is false in fact.

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.

No man ever threw away life while it was worth keeping.

Nothing indeed can be a stronger presumption of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude.

Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers.

Nothing is more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.

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.

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.

The greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrisy: The most open impiety is attended with a secret dread and compunction.

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.

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

The more exquisite any good is, of which a small specimen is afforded us, the sharper is the evil, allied to it; and few exceptions are found to this uniform law of nature.

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.

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.

Categories: David Hume, Quotes of the day


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