Published in 1748, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is Scottish empiricist philosopher David Hume's distillation of his mature philosophy. Addressing themes including the limits of human understanding, the compatibility of free will with determinism, weaknesses in the foundations of religion, and the appeal of skepticism, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is Hume's attempt to revise and clarify the ideas of his earlier A Treatise of Human Nature. A major work in the empiricist school of thought that included John Locke and George Berkeley, Hume's work influenced such later authors as Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, and Jeremy Bentham. Controversial and widely debated since its publication, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is a classic of empiricist philosophy whose questions remain as relevant today as ever.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
This is the most valuable of Hume's works to listen to because he offers a mature summary of his sceptical views on the limits of human knowledge. He covers all the main issues starting with his empiricist view that all simple 'ideas' are based on 'impressions' and complex ideas can be constructed from combinations of other ideas. He fails, however, to fully address the possibility of combining 'a priori' mathematical concepts with ideas drawn from experience.
His formulation of a compatiblist position on free will and determinism improves on the thinking of Locke and Hobbes but appears quaint today in the light of modern studies in neuroscience, consciousness and volition, reflected in the thinking of Libet, Haggart and Honderich.
His attack on miracles reveals a deeply prejudiced and conceited attitude to what he terms 'barbarous nations' and appears closed to new empirical evidence. Hume has too rigid a conception of 'laws' of nature, which appears old-fashioned as modern science now prefers to understand observed patterns as 'models' of interpretation. Swinburne, who views miracles as 'counter-instances' to the predictions of such models, has offered a thorough critique of Hume's vague musings on the credibility of witness statements on miracles.
This book is a must-listen for anyone interested in philosophy because of its powerful impact on the course of philosophical thinking, both on the continent, through Kant, and on the analytic approach in Britain. Hume's reflections on the common ground between human and animal understanding anticipate Darwin, and illustrate the courage and ground-breaking originality of Hume's thinking.
The narration is superb because of its clarity, but it does not fully capture the sceptical tone of Hume's writing. Careful inflection helps bring out the sense, even when Hume's style is a little elaborate to the modern ear.
"A Great Work Deserves a Great Performance"
David Hume's writing, while scholarly and deep, is very readable and lends itself quite well to oral performance. The Enquiry is one of the most important works in the English language. It is almost as significant to philosophy as Darwin's Origin of Species is to science, and it is intrinsically interesting stuff, not to mention exciting. As such, this work deserves a performance that understands the energy of Hume's writing and the subtleties, even the humor, of his discussion. Jackson's reading is perfunctory, as though a philosophy text requires nothing more than a British accent and a monotonous recitation of the words on the page.
Someone who would read Philsophy as though it were Shakespeare, because that's how significant this work is.
In order for Audible to charge money for public domain literature, they need to provide a performance that's better than the monotonous droning available on free podcast versions of these types of works. I would suggest either replacing this title with a better performance, or hiring voice talent to create a new recording of the book.
"Refreshing and.. really funny, surprisingly."
Refreshing and mineral rich, like a tall glass clear water with a zest of amusing lemon. This writer is so lovable and honest, you just want to pat his wig, hug him and give him a kiss on the pudgy a cheek.
The language isn't difficult, you just have to pay close attention for 15 min then take a little break, to muse to yourself.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.