130 David Hume Quotes

If you’re in need of some pointers that will make you think twice before you act, then you better check out these David Hume quotes. With a full collection that features 130 quotes from his most significant works like The Treatise of Human Nature, you’ll get a sneak peek into the mind of one of the most famous Scottish Enlightenment philosophers.

Considered as the third major British empiricist, he significantly opposed rationalism and instead championed his beliefs supported by the principles of empiricism.

Read the full collection to find out more about David Hume.

Best David Hume Quotes

1. “In our reasonings, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance—from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.”

2. “But the life of a man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”

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

4. “The truth springs from arguments amongst friends.”

5. “Reading, and sauntering, and lounging, and dosing—which I call thinking—is my supreme happiness.”

6. “Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras.”

7. “Liberty of any kind is never lost all at once.”

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

9. “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.”

10. “Epicurus’s old questions are still unanswered—is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence evil?”

11. “Be a philosopher, but amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.”

12. “He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper, but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to his circumstance.”

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

14. “When men are most sure and arrogant, they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.”

15. “I never knew anyone that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not believe it before the end of his enquiries.”

16. “Reason is, and ought only, to be the slave of the passions.”

17. “If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, ‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No.’ Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

18. “Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.”

19. “Always, I reject the greater miracle.”

20. “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”

David Hume Quotes on the Self and Morality

21. “All sentiment is right, because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond itself, and is always real wherever a man is conscious of it. But all determinations of the understanding are not right, because they have a reference to something beyond themselves—to wit, real matter of fact—and are not always conformable to that standard.”

22. “We make allowance for a certain degree of selfishness in men; because we know it to be inseparable from human nature, and inherent in our frame and constitution. By this reflexion we correct those sentiments of blame, which so naturally arise upon any opposition.”

23. “It is difficult for a man to speak long of himself without vanity.”

24. “To begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their consequences; though by these means we shall make both a slow and a short progress in our systems; are the only methods, by which we can ever hope to reach truth, and attain a proper stability and certainty in our determinations.”

25. “What is easy and obvious is never valued; and even what is in itself difficult, if we come to the knowledge of it without difficulty, and without any stretch of thought or judgment, is but little regarded.”

26. “A wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence.”

27. “The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstructions in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought so far to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.”

28. “The greatest part of mankind floats between vice and virtue.”

29. “All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious, and not to admit of any hypothesis whatever, much less of any which is supported by no appearance of probability.”

30. “Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers.”

31. “As every inquiry which regards religion is of the utmost importance, there are two questions in particular which challenge our attention—to wit, that concerning its foundation in reason, and that concerning it origin in human nature.”

32. “Skepticism may be theoretically irrefutable, but even the skeptic must act, and live, and converse, like other men, since human nature gives him no choice.”

33. “The crusades—the most signal and most durable monument of human folly that has yet appeared in any age or nation.”

34. “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.”

35. “No conclusion can be more agreeable to skepticism than such as making discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of human reason and capacity.”

36. “I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind—that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”

37. “The Old Testament, if considered as a general rule of conduct, would lead to consequences destructive of all principles of humanity and morality.”

38. “It is, therefore, a just political maxim—that every man must be supposed a knave.”

39. “Historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that however specious these ideas of perfect equality may seem, they are really, at bottom, impracticable; and were they not so, would be extremely pernicious to human society.”

40. “When principles are so absurd and so destructive of human society, it may safely be averred that the more sincere and the more disinterested they are, they only become the more ridiculous and the more odious.”

41. “There is no craving or demand of the human mind more constant and insatiable than that for exercise and employment, and this desire seems to be the foundation of most of our passions and pursuits.”

42. “The virtues of valor and love of liberty—the only virtues which can take place among an uncivilized people, where justice and humanity are commonly neglected.”

43. “Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to give a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces, which come from the hand of the master.”

44. “The divinity is a boundless ocean of bliss and glory. Human minds are smaller streams which, arising at first from the ocean, seek still amid all wanderings, to return to it, and to lose themselves in that immensity of perfection.”

45. “Amidst all this bustle, it is not reason which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagant hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favorable colors.”

46. “Our senses inform us of the color, weight, and consistency of bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever inform us of those qualities which fit it for the nourishment and support of a human body.”

47. “The heart of man is made to reconcile the most glaring contradictions.”

48. “Their conduct is regulated by their understanding, their temper, and their passions.”

49. “It is possible for the same thing both to be and not to be.”

50. “Nothing is counted as a miracle if it ever happens in the common course of nature.”

51. “Any honor or mark of distinction elevates them above measure, but they are as sensibly touched with contempt. People of this character have no doubt, more lively enjoyments as well as more pungent sorrows, than men of cool and sedate tempers.”

52. “Men of such lively passions are apt to be transported beyond all bounds of prudence and discretion, and to take false steps in the conduct of life, which are often irretrievable.”

53. “When we think back on our past sensations and feelings, our thought is a faithful mirror that copies its objects truly; but it does so in colors that are fainter and more washed-out than those in which our original perceptions were clothed.”

David Hume Quotes on Philosophy and Thought

54. “To philosophers and historians, the madness and imbecile wickedness of mankind ought to appear ordinary events.”

55. “To be a philosophical skeptic is the first and most essential step towards being a sound, believing Christian.”

56. “By the term ‘impression’, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will.”

57. “The identity that we ascribe to things is only a fictitious one established by the mind—not a peculiar nature belonging to what we’re talking about.”

58. “It is better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world.”

59. “Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men.”

60. “The feelings of our heart, the agitation of our passions, the vehemence of our affections, dissipate all its conclusions and reduce the profound philosopher to a mere plebeian.”

61. “That students of philosophy ought first to learn logics, then ethics, next physics, last of all the nature of the gods.”

62. “Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach upon the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words while they imagine that they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern.”

63. “There is nothing to be learnt from a professor, which is not to be met with in books.”

64. “The other species of philosophers consider man in the light of a reasonable rather than an active being, and endeavor to form his understanding more than cultivate his manners.”

65. “They regard human nature as a subject of speculation; and with a narrow scrutiny, examine it in order to find those principles which regulate our understanding, excite our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any particular object, action, or behavior.”

66. “Art may make a suit of clothes, but nature must produce a man.”

67. “The passion for philosophy, like that for religion, involves a certain danger. Although it aims to correct our behavior and wipe out our vices, it may—through not being handled properly—end up merely encouraging us to carry on in directions that we’re already naturally inclined to follow.”

68. “Explanation is where the mind rests.”

69. “All beliefs about matters of fact or real existence are derived merely from something that is present to the memory or senses, and a customary association of that with some other thing.”

70. “Let the errors and deceits of our very senses be set before us; the insuperable difficulties which attend first principles in all systems; the contradictions which adhere to the very ideas of matter, cause and effect, extension, space, time, motion; and, in a word, quantity of all kinds—the object of the only science that can fairly pretend to any certainty or evidence.”

71. “All the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward senses or from our inward feelings. All that the mind and will do is to mix and combine these materials.”

72. “Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of the church’s veracity; and whoever is moved by faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person , which subverts all the principles of his understanding and gives him a determination of believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.”

73. “How can anything that exists from eternity have a cause, since that relation implies a priority in time and a beginning of existence?”

74. “Theology, as it proves the existence of a Deity and the immortality of souls, is composed partly of reasonings concerning particular portions concerning general fact.”

75. “But pain often, good God, how often, rises to torture and agony; and the longer it continues, it becomes still more genuine agony and torture.”

76. “Men’s views of things are the result of their understanding alone.”

77. “The one change is of more importance to me than the other; but not more so to the universe.”

78. “To seek the real beauty or real deformity is as fruitless an enquiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter.”

79. “The bigotry of theologians is a malady which seems almost incurable.”

80. “The spirits evaporate, the nerves relax, the fabric is disordered, and the enjoyment quickly degenerates into fatigue and uneasiness.”

81. “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.”

82. “All knowledge degenerates into probability.”

83. “Our minds can create new ideas from the components which experience has already given us—by combining together our existing ideas in new ways or by shuffling the components of our existing ideas—but we are quite unable to form any completely new ideas beyond those that have already been given to us by sensation or feeling.”

84. “What a peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call ‘thought’.”

85. “This question depends upon the definition of the word, ‘nature,’ than which there is none more ambiguous and equivocal.”

86. “A great inferiority of beauty gives pain to a person conversant in the highest excellence of the kind, and is for that reason pronounced a deformity; as the most finished object with which we are acquainted is naturally supposed to have reached the pinnacle of perfection, and to be entitled to the highest applause.”

87. “Weakness, fear, melancholy, together with ignorance, are therefore the true sources of superstition.”

88. “It’s best and most solid foundation is faith and divine revelation.”

89. “With what assurance can we decide concerning the origin of worlds or trace their history from eternity to eternity?”

David Hume Quotes on the Society and Authority

90. “Any pride or haughtiness is displeasing to us merely because it shocks our own pride, and leads us by sympathy into comparison, which causes the disagreeable passion of humility.”

91. “A purpose, an intention, a design, strikes everywhere—even the careless, the most stupid thinker.”

92. “In public affairs, men are often better pleased that the truth, though known to everybody, should be wrapped up under a decent cover than if it were exposed in open daylight to the eyes of all the world.”

93. “When I shall be dead, the principles of which I am composed will still perform their part in the universe, and will be equally useful in the grand fabric, as when they composed this individual creature.”

94. “Stupify the understanding and harden the heart; obscure the fancy and sour the temper.”

95. “‘Tis not unreasonable for me to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.”

96. “Carelessness and in-attention alone can afford us any remedy; for this reason, I rely entirely upon them.”

97. “The fact that different cultures have different practices no more refutes moral objectivism than the fact that water flows in different directions in different places refutes the law of gravity.”

98. “The victory is not gained by the men at arms who manage the pike and the sword, but by the trumpeters, drummers, and musicians of the army.”

99. “Pleasure, scarcely in one instance, is ever able to reach ecstasy and rapture; and in no one instance can it continue for any time at its highest pitch and altitude.”

100. “Patience is exhausted, courage languishes, melancholy seizes us, and nothing terminates our misery but the removal of its cause, or another event, which is the sole cure of all evil, but which, from our natural folly, we regard with still greater horror and consternation.”

101. “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.”

102. “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and because firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the case against a miracle is—just because it is a miracle—as complete as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined to be.”

103. “When suicide is out of fashion, we conclude that none but madmen destroy themselves, and all the efforts of courage appear chimerical to dastardly minds.”

104. “Revolutions of government cannot be affected by the mere force of argument and reasoning.”

105. “Perfect equality of possessions and destroying all subordination weakens extremely the authority of magistracy, and must reduce all power nearly to a level.”

106. “If subjects must never resist, it follows that every prince, without any effort, policy, or violence, is at once rendered absolute and uncontrollable.”

107. “The essential passions of the heart have found a better soil in which it may attain its maturity and remain under less restraint and extend into its natural state.”

108. “Nature is always too strong for principle.”

109. “Beyond the constant conjunction of similar objects and the consequent inference from one to the other, we have no notion of any necessity, or connection.”

110. “The more instances we examine and the more care we employ, the more assurance shall we acquire that the enumeration which we form from the whole is complete and entire.”

111. “But his internal sentiments are more regulated by the personal characters of men, than by the accidental and capricious favors of fortune.”

112. “The gaiety and frolic of a bottle companion improves with him into a solid friendship, and the ardours of a youthful appetite become an elegant passion.”

113. “A mistake, therefore, of right may become a species of immortality.”

114. “Nothing is more admirable than the readiness with which the imagination suggests its ideas and presents them at the very instant in which they become necessary or useful.”

115. “A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.”

116. “Long before we have reached the last steps of the argument leading to our theory, we are already in Fairyland.”

117. “Disputes are multiplied, as if everything was uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if everything was certain.”

118. “Some people are subject to a certain delicacy of passion which makes them extremely sensible to all the accidents of life, and gives them a lively joy upon every prosperous event, as well as a piercing grief, when they meet with misfortunes and adversity.”

119. “Favors and good offices easily engage their friendship; while the smallest injury provokes their resentment.”

120. “I believe when everything is balanced, there is no one who would not rather be of the latter character, where he is entirely master of his own disposition.”

121. “Good or ill fortune is very little at our disposal; and when a person that has this sensibility of temper meets with any misfortune, his sorrow or resentment takes entire possession of him, and deprives him of all relish in the common occurrences of life—the right enjoyment of which forms the chief part of our happiness.”

122. “Great pleasures are much less frequent than great pains; so that a sensible temper must meet with fewer trials in the former way than in the latter.”

123. “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.”

124. “Liberty is the perfection of civil society; but still, authority must be acknowledged essential to its very existence. And in those contests, which so often take place between the one and the other, the latter may, on that account, challenge the preference.”

125. “A body of ten ounces raised in any scale may serve as a proof that the counterbalancing weight exceeds ten ounces; but can never afford a reason that it exceeds a hundred.”

126. “Where then is the crime of turning a few ounces of blood from their natural channel?”

127. “I resolved to make a very rigid frugality supply my deficiency of fortune, to maintain my unimpaired independence, and to regard every object as contemptible except the improvement of my talents in literature.”

128. “Empires may rise and fall; liberty and slavery succeed alternately; ignorance and knowledge give place to each other; but the cherry tree will still remain in the woods of Greece, Spain, and Italy, and will never be affected by the revolutions of human society.”

129. “Commerce, therefore, in my opinion, is apt to decay in absolute governments, not because it is less secure, but because it is less honorable.”

130. “If nature has been frugal in her gifts and endowments, there is the need for art to supply her defects.”

Did these David Hume Quotes Make You Aware of What You Ought to Do?

David Hume urged man to be aware of his own consciousness. To him, being conscious and having your own understanding of the world is one step closer to making it a peaceful and happy place. What comes along with this consciousness, then, is a purposeful action that’s driven by what we ought to do.

Which of these quotes acted as a wake up call for you to think more about what you should do versus what you’re used to? Do you agree with David Hume’s revolutionary ideas? Let’s talk about it in the comments section down below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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