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David Hume

Geburtstag: 26. April 1711
Todesdatum: 25. August 1776

David Hume [hju:m] war ein schottischer Philosoph, Ökonom und Historiker. Er war einer der bedeutendsten Vertreter der schottischen Aufklärung und wird der philosophischen Strömung des Empirismus bzw. des Sensualismus zugerechnet. Sein skeptisches und metaphysikfreies Philosophieren regte Immanuel Kant zu dessen Kritik der reinen Vernunft an. Mittelbar wirkte dieser Vordenker der Aufklärung auf die modernen Richtungen des Positivismus und der analytischen Philosophie. In Bezug auf seine wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Bedeutung kann er zur vorklassischen Ökonomie gezählt werden. Hume war ein enger Freund von Adam Smith und stand mit ihm in regem intellektuellem Austausch.

Zitate David Hume

„Gewohnheit ist der große Führer im Menschenleben.“

—  David Hume

Eine Untersuchung in Betreff des menschlichen Verstandes
Briefe

„Sie sehen also, [Jean-Jacques Rousseau] ist eine Komposition aus Launen, Affektiertheit, Boshaftigkeit, Selbstgefälligkeit und Unruhe mit einer winzigen, wenn überhaupt vorhandenen Beimischung von Wahnsinn. […] Die oben genannten, vorherrschenden Qualitäten zusammen mit Undankbarkeit, Grausamkeit und Lügerei, und der von mir nicht extra zuerwähnenden Redegewandtheit und Erfindungsgabe, formen die gesamte geistige Verfassung.“

—  David Hume

Brief an Adam Smith vom 8. Oktober 1767, in: The Correspondence of Adam Smith, Oxford University Press 1987 [Reprint 2001]. S. 135 Übers.: Wikiquote
"Thus you see, he is a Composition of Whim, Affectation, Wickedness, Vanity, and Inquietude, with a very small, if any, Ingredient of Madness. [...] The ruling Qualities abovementioned, together with Ingratitude, Ferocity, and Lying, I need not mention, Eloquence and Invention — form the whole of the Composition."
Briefe

„Himmel und Hölle setzen zwei verschiedene Arten von Menschen voraus: gute und böse; aber der größte Teil der Menschen schwankt zwischen Laster und Tugend.“

—  David Hume

Über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele (postum veröffentlicht 1777), ins Deutsche übersetzt von Friedrich Paulsen, Leipzig <sup>3</sup>: Meiner, 1905. S. 161
Original engl.: "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." -
Über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele (1757)

„Die Vernunft ist nur ein Sklave der Affekte und soll es sein; sie darf niemals eine andere Funktion beanspruchen, als die, denselben zu dienen und zu gehorchen.“

—  David Hume

Ein Traktat über die menschliche Natur. Buch II, Teil III, Dritter Abschnitt. Hamburg 1978. S. 153
"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." - unc.edu http://www.unc.edu/~jjeffrey/Hume%20Files--start%20with%20B3/B2.3.3.html
Traktat über die menschliche Natur (1739)

„Stärker als alle Grundsätze ist die Natur.“

—  David Hume

Eine Untersuchung in Betreff des menschlichen Verstandes, 12, 2, 7. Absatz
"Nature is always too strong for principle"
Eine Untersuchung in Betreff des menschlichen Verstandes (1748)

„Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are every where to be met with in the systems of the most eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.“

—  David Hume, buch A Treatise of Human Nature

Introduction
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40)
Kontext: Nothing is more usual and more natural for those, who pretend to discover anything new to the world in philosophy and the sciences, than to insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those, which have been advanced before them. And indeed were they content with lamenting that ignorance, which we still lie under in the most important questions, that can come before the tribunal of human reason, there are few, who have an acquaintance with the sciences, that would not readily agree with them. 'Tis easy for one of judgment and learning, to perceive the weak foundation even of those systems, which have obtained the greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest to accurate and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are every where to be met with in the systems of the most eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.

„Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.“

—  David Hume, buch Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Cleanthes to Demea, Part IX<!-- p.166-->
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779)
Kontext: In such a chain, too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes that which succeeds it. Where then is the difficulty? But the WHOLE, you say, wants a cause. I answer, that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct countries into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.

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

—  David Hume, buch A Treatise of Human Nature

Part 4, Section 7
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Book 1: Of the understanding
Kontext: This deficiency in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life, nor are we sensible, that in the most usual conjunctions of cause and effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate principle, which binds them together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary. But this proceeds merely from an illusion of the imagination; and the question is, how far we ought to yield to these illusions. This question is very difficult, and reduces us to a very dangerous dilemma, whichever way we answer it. For if we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy; beside that these suggestions are often contrary to each other; they lead us into such errors, absurdities, and obscurities, that we must at last become asham'd of our credulity. Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be compar'd to those angels, whom the scripture represents as covering their eyes with their wings. This has already appear'd in so many instances, that we may spare ourselves the trouble of enlarging upon it any farther.

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

—  David Hume, buch An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Variant (perhaps a paraphrase of this passage): It is not reason which is the guide of life, but custom.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)
Kontext: Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation.

„Avarice, the spur of industry, is so obstinate a passion, and works its way through so many real dangers and difficulties, that it is not likely to be scared by an imaginary danger, which is so small, that it scarcely admits of calculation.“

—  David Hume, buch Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary

Part I, Essay 12: Of Civil Liberty
Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1741-2; 1748)
Kontext: Avarice, the spur of industry, is so obstinate a passion, and works its way through so many real dangers and difficulties, that it is not likely to be scared by an imaginary danger, which is so small, that it scarcely admits of calculation. Commerce, therefore, in my opinion, is apt to decay in absolute governments, not because it is there less secure, but because it is less honourable.

„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.“

—  David Hume

Essay on the Immortality of the Soul
Kontext: 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. -- Were one to go round the world with an intention of giving a good supper to the righteous, and a sound drubbing to the wicked, he would frequently be embarrassed in his choice, and would find that the merits and the demerits of most men and women scarcely amount to the value of either.

„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.“

—  David Hume, buch Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary

Part I, Essay 6: Of The Independency of Parliament; first line often paraphrased as "It is a just political maxim, that every man must be supposed a knave."
Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1741-2; 1748)
Kontext: 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. But to satisfy us on this head, we may consider, that men are generally more honest in their private than in their public capacity, and will go greater lengths to serve a party, than when their own private interest is alone concerned. Honour is a great check upon mankind: But where a considerable body of men act together, this check is, in a great measure, removed; since a man is sure to be approved of by his own party, for what promotes the common interest; and he soon learns to despise the clamours of adversaries.

„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.“

—  David Hume, The Natural History of Religion

Part XV - General corollary
The Natural History of Religion (1757)
Kontext: 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. The greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrisy: The most open impiety is attended with a secret dread and compunction. No theological absurdities so glaring that they have not, sometimes, been embraced by men of the greatest and most cultivated understanding. No religious precepts so rigorous that they have not been adopted by the most voluptuous and most abandoned of men.

„The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure and use of man, produces, to its slothful owner, the most abundant crop of poisons.“

—  David Hume, buch Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary

Part I, Essay 16: The Stoic
Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1741-2; 1748)
Kontext: If nature has been frugal in her gifts and endowments, there is the more need of art to supply her defects. If she has been generous and liberal, know that she still expects industry and application on our part, and revenges herself in proportion to our negligent ingratitude. The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure and use of man, produces, to its slothful owner, the most abundant crop of poisons.

„Where ambition can be so happy as to cover its enterprizes, even to the person himself, under the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of all human passions.“

—  David Hume, The History of England

Volume I, Part IV : William the Conqueror
The History of England (1754-62)
Kontext: It was a fixed maxim in this reign, as well as in some of the subsequent, that no native of the island should ever be advanced to any dignity, ecclesiastical, civil, or military. The king therefore, upon Stigand’s deposition, promoted Lanfranc, a Milanese monk, celebrated for his learning and piety, to the vacant see. This prelate was rigid in defending the prerogatives of his station; and after a long process before the pope, he obliged Thomas, a Norman monk, who had been appointed to the see of York, to acknowledge the primacy of the archbishop of Canterbury. Where ambition can be so happy as to cover its enterprizes, even to the person himself, under the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of all human passions. Hence Lanfranc’s zeal in promoting the interests of the papacy, by which he himself augmented his own authority, was indefatigable; and met with proportionable success. The devoted attachment to Rome continually encreased in England; and being favoured by the sentiments of the conquerors, as well as by the monastic establishments formerly introduced by Edred and by Edgar, it soon reached the same height, at which it had, during some time, stood in France and Italy. It afterwards went much farther; being favoured by that very remote situation, which had at first obstructed its progress; and being less checked by knowledge and a liberal education, which were still somewhat more common in the southern countries.

„This deficiency in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life, nor are we sensible, that in the most usual conjunctions of cause and effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate principle, which binds them together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary.“

—  David Hume, buch A Treatise of Human Nature

Part 4, Section 7
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Book 1: Of the understanding
Kontext: This deficiency in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life, nor are we sensible, that in the most usual conjunctions of cause and effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate principle, which binds them together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary. But this proceeds merely from an illusion of the imagination; and the question is, how far we ought to yield to these illusions. This question is very difficult, and reduces us to a very dangerous dilemma, whichever way we answer it. For if we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy; beside that these suggestions are often contrary to each other; they lead us into such errors, absurdities, and obscurities, that we must at last become asham'd of our credulity. Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be compar'd to those angels, whom the scripture represents as covering their eyes with their wings. This has already appear'd in so many instances, that we may spare ourselves the trouble of enlarging upon it any farther.

„For with what confidence can I venture upon such bold enterprises, when beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself, I find so many which are common to human nature? Can I be sure, that in leaving all established opinions I am following truth; and by what criterion shall I distinguish her, even if fortune shou'd at last guide me on her foot-steps?“

—  David Hume, buch A Treatise of Human Nature

Part 4, Section 7
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Book 1: Of the understanding
Kontext: I am first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in which I am plac'd in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expell'd all human commerce, and left utterly abandon'd and disconsolate. Fain wou'd I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me. Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats upon me from every side. I have expos'd myself to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults I must suffer? I have declar'd my disapprobation of their systems; and can I be surpriz'd, if they shou'd express a hatred of mine and of my person? When I look abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction. When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; tho' such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning.
For with what confidence can I venture upon such bold enterprises, when beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself, I find so many which are common to human nature? Can I be sure, that in leaving all established opinions I am following truth; and by what criterion shall I distinguish her, even if fortune shou'd at last guide me on her foot-steps? After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, I can give no reason why I shou'd assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong propensity to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they appear to me. Experience is a principle, which instructs me in the several conjunctions of objects for the past. Habit is another principle, which determines me to expect the same for the future; and both of them conspiring to operate upon the imagination, make me form certain ideas in a more intense and lively manner, than others, which are not attended with the same advantages. Without this quality, by which the mind enlivens some ideas beyond others (which seemingly is so trivial, and so little founded on reason) we cou'd never assent to any argument, nor carry our view beyond those few objects, which are present to our senses. Nay, even to these objects we cou'd never attribute any existence, but what was dependent on the senses; and must comprehend them entirely in that succession of perceptions, which constitutes our self or person. Nay farther, even with relation to that succession, we cou'd only admit of those perceptions, which are immediately present to our consciousness, nor cou'd those lively images, with which the memory presents us, be ever receiv'd as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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