Treatise of Human Nature
A Treatise of Human Nature is a 1738 philosophical work by Scottish thinker David Hume. Hume (1711-1776) was one of the leading proponents of empiricism and skepticism, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, and one of the first outspoken atheists. The Treatise is considered to be one the most important works in the development of philosophy.
His Treatise of Human Nature is divided into three parts. Book One, “Of the Understanding” is his investigation into human cognition and one of the most important statements of Skepticism. Hume opens with the idea that all ideas are derived from impressions, or human experience. This is the origin of empiricism as a major force in philosophy.
In Book Two, “Of the Passions,” Hume divides original impressions and secondary impressions and then divides secondary or reflective impressions into different categories. Hume states that the cause of a passion is what induces the passion, and the object of a passion is what the emotion is directed towards. Romantic love, the “amorous passion,” for example is divided into a sense of beauty, libido, and kindness.
Book Three, “Of Morals,” is Hume’s critique of moral rationalism. Hume argues that these moral evaluations are impressions in the mind, and not ideas. Hume ends the entire work with the summation that sympathy is the chief source of moral distinctions and that justice is an immutable part of human nature.