The Wisdom of David Hume

The following quotes are from Hume’s Dialogues, and I have not indicated who is speaking in each quote. To that end, you should expect to read the highlights of a unified thought process. Instead, these excerpts represent some of the more thought provoking elements of the piece I read. Some I agree with; some I do not. All, however, inspired me to think.

“Let us become thoroughly sensible of the weakness, blindness, and narrow limits of human reason.”

“But in theological reasonings…we are employed upon objects, which, we must be sensible, are too large for our grasp…We are like foreigners in a strange country, to whom every thing must seem suspicious, and who are in danger every moment of transgressing against the laws and customs of the people with whom they live and converse. We know not how far we ought to trust our vulgar methods of reasoning in such a subject; since even in common life, and in that province which is peculiarly appropriated to them, we cannot account for them, and are entirely guided by a kind of instinct or necessity in employing them.”

“I shall never assent to so harsh an opinion as that of a celebrated writer, who says, that the Sceptics [sic] are not a sect of philosophers: they are only a sect of liars. I may, however, affirm (I hope without offence), that they are a sect of jesters or railers. But for my part, whenever I find myself disposed to mirth and amusement, I shall certainly choose my entertainment of a less perplexing and abstruse nature.”

“Atheist and Sceptic [sic] are almost synonymous.”

“…every particular which regards so divine a Being, are mysterious to men. Finite, weak, and blind creatures, we ought to humble ourselves in his august presence; and, conscious of our frailties, adore in silence his infinite perfections, which eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. They are covered in a deep cloud from human curiosity. It is profaneness to attempt penetrating through these sacred obscurities. And, next to the impiety of denying his existence, is the temerity of prying into his nature and essence, decrees and attributes.”

“Our ideas reach no further than our experience. We have no experience of divine attributes and operations. I need not conclude my syllogism. You can draw the inference yourself. And it is a pleasure to me (and I hope to you too) that just reasoning and sound piety here concur in the same conclusion, and both of them establish the adorably mysterious and incomprehensible nature of the Supreme Being.”

“Zealous defenders of religion allow, that the proofs of a Deity fall short of perfect evidence.”

“A very small part of this great system, during a very short time, is very imperfectly discovered to us; an do we then pronounce decisively concerning the origin of the whole?”

“…your greatest errors proceed not from barrenness of thoughts and invention, but from too luxuriant a fertility…”

“…by representing the Deity as so intelligible and comprehensible, and so similar to a human mind, we are guilty of the grossest and most narrow partiality, and make ourselves the model of the whole universe.”

“These are only more learned and elaborate ways of confessing our ignorance…”

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