Open Educational Resources

Hume's 'Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals'

Morality is a matter of feeling or sentiment, not judgement or reason. So argues David Hume (1711–1776), who thought that his ‘Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals’ was ‘incomparably the best’ of his writings. Indeed, after its initial publication in 1751, the (second) ‘Enquiry’ was re-issued eleven times and translated into French and German during Hume’s life. In great detail and inimitable eloquence, he lays out his ethical theory, where the passions, sympathy with others, and personal character combine against egoism and rationalism.

In this course, we read the entire text (including the important appendices), and clarify the philosophical issues in discussion. As an occasional backdrop, we also use some of Hume’s essays or passages from the ‘Treatise of Human Nature’, as well as selected passages from other authors. This readable and accessible classic is suitable for anyone interested in Hume’s moral ideas.

Date created:

2019-01-30 10:30
Course type: 

Resources for this course

Displaying 1 - 21 of 21
Type Resource Description People Full details
Link Experimental Method

Check out this wonderful resource; e.g., for more on Hume's 'experimental method', see Treatise Introduction, and Enquiry concerning Human...

Document Morality: more properly felt than judged?

The notes from the second meeting (EPM 1).

Peter Wyss
Document First Coursework Sheet

Leading questions and a little background for EPM 1–2.

Peter Wyss
Document Second Coursework Sheet

Leading questions for EPM 3–4.

Peter Wyss
Document Third Coursework Sheet

A range of questions about EPM 5.

Peter Wyss
Document Mandeville extract

The extract from B. Mandeville's 'Enquiry' mentioned in the third coursework sheet. For the full text, see the dedicated resource.

Peter Wyss
Link Mandeville

The full text of the 'Fable of the Bees'. Browse the website further: it is a treasure trove (e.g., you can find Hutcheson's writings).

Document 'Of Justice' and 'Of Political Society'

Notes from the session on EPM 3 and 4.

Peter Wyss
Document Fourth Coursework Sheet

The study questions for EPM 6 and 7.

Peter Wyss
Document Notes on Justice and Utility

The puzzle about natural justice, and thoughts about the background to EPM 5.

Peter Wyss
Link 'Hume's Moral Philosophy'

Entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by R. Cohon (2018). The article is very useful even though it focuses mainly on the 'Treatise'....

Document 'Of the Original Contract'

Hume's 1748 essay complements EPM 4; see esp. pp.486-9 in this 1777 pagination.

Peter Wyss
Document 'Of the Origin of Government'

Hume's 5-page essay of 1777 touches on several themes from EPM 3 and 4.

Peter Wyss
Document Fifth Coursework Sheet

Some study questions for EPM 8 and 9.

Peter Wyss
Document Utility Once Again

Part of the argument in EPM 5 in a nutshell, and four strands in Hume's ethical thinking.

Document 'Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature'

Hume's 1741 essay from its 1777 edition, mentioned on the fifth coursework sheet.

Peter Wyss
Document Sixth Coursework Sheet

Twenty (leading) questions for studying Appendices 1 and 2.

Peter Wyss
Document 'Of Virtue and Vice in General'

The first part of the Treatise Book 3 (i.e. T 3.1.1–2), where Hume deals with rationalism and sentimentalism.

Peter Wyss
Document Seventh Coursework Sheet

A handful of questions for Appendices 3 and 4, and the Dialogue.

Peter Wyss
Document EPM 9 and Beyond

Notes from the eighth session: on the 'Conclusion', general remarks on Humean ethics, Epicurean passages.

Peter Wyss
Document More on Justice (Appendix 3)

Notes from the ninth meeting, with three passages from the Treatise.

Peter Wyss