A treatise of human nature

Title page of 'A treatise on human nature'

Title page of the first volume of 'A treatise of human nature', by David Hume (1739).


Published in three volumes, 'Treatise' was the philosopher's first great work in any subject.

Yet it was not a success when it was first published.

'Treatise' was 'an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects'. In it Hume deprived morals of a religious foundation - resulting in charges of atheism and scepticism from among some of his contemporaries.

Hume was later to write in his memoir:

'Never literary attempt was more unfortunate than my Treatise of Human Nature. It fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots.'

Despite its critics, the work was widely influential, and translated into many languages. Today it is still much studied in universities worldwide.

[NLS shelfmark: NF.753.a.15]

This volume featured in the David Hume display at the National Library of Scotland from 5 May to 28 June 2011.

Speak me