This edition contains the thirty-nine essays included in Essays, Moral, and Literary, that made up Volume I of the 1777 posthumous Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. It also includes ten essays that were withdrawn or left unpublished by Hume for various reasons. The two most important were deemed too controversial for the religious climate of his time.
This revised edition reflects changes based on further comparisons with eighteenth-century texts and an extensive reworking of the index.
We have Hume's own word that the definitive statement of his philosophy is not to be found in the youthful Treatise of Human Nature but in the 1777 posthumous edition of his collected works entitled Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. Yet a major part of this definitive collection, the Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (a volume of near 600 pages, covering three decades of Hume's career as a philosopher) has been largely ignored. The volume has rarely been in print, and the last critical edition was published in 1874-75. With this splendid, but inexpensive, new critical edition by Eugene Miller, the door is open to a richer notion of Hume's conception of philosophy.
— Donald Livingston, Emory University
The most important philosopher ever to write in English, David Hume (1711-1776) — the last of the great triumvirate of “British empiricists” — was also well-known in his own time as an historian and essayist. A master stylist in any genre, Hume's major philosophical works — A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), as well as the posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) — remain widely and deeply influential. Although many of Hume's contemporaries denounced his writings as works of scepticism and atheism, his influence is evident in the moral philosophy and economic writings of his close friend Adam Smith. Hume also awakened Immanuel Kant from his “dogmatic slumbers” and “caused the scales to fall” from Jeremy Bentham's eyes. Charles Darwin counted Hume as a central influence, as did “Darwin's bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley. The diverse directions in which these writers took what they gleaned from reading Hume reflect not only the richness of their sources but also the wide range of his empiricism. Today, philosophers recognize Hume as a precursor of contemporary cognitive science, as well as one of the most thoroughgoing exponents of philosophical naturalism.