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An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.


London, A. Millar, 1751. 12mo. Contemporary half calf with 5 raised bands and gilt tittle-label to spine. Hinges, capitals and corners worn, but unrestored and still tight. Very light scattered browning and one leaf with a tear (no loss), otherwise internally very nice and clean. Old owner's inscriptions (Francis Humphreys, Max Ede) to front free end-paper and contemporary owner's name to top of title-page ("Geo: Hickes"). (8), 253, (3, -advertisements) pp. Fully complete, with the half-title, errata (several of these corrected in a neat, early hand), and advertisements. ¶ First edition, first issue (L3 in the uncancelled state) of Hume's ethical materpiece, according to Hume himself "of all my writings, historical, philosophical or literary, incomparably the best" (Hume, "My Own Life, 1776).

The present work is a cornerstone of moral philosophy, laying bare to us the foundation of ethics. It hugely influenced all later writings on ethics and constitutes a milestone in the history of moral thought.

Hume's fist discussions about ethics appear in Book 3 of his "A Treatise of Human Nature". There, however, his moral philosophy is not fully developed, and only in his ethical magnum opus (the present work), does his moral philosophy come in to full being.
"Late in his life Hume deemed the "Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals" his best work, and in style it is a model of elegance and subtlety. His method in that work differs from that of the "Treatise": instead of explicating the nature of virtue and vice and our knowledge of them in terms of underlying features of the human mind, he proposes to collect all the traits we know from common sense to be virtues and vices, observe what those in each group have in common, and from that observation discover the "foundation of ethics" (SEP).

"Shortly before his death, David Hume declared his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) to be the best of his many writings. In this highly influential work, Hume sets out his theory of justice and benevolence, and the other virtues, and argues that morality is founded on the natural feelings or `sentiments' of humankind." (From the Oxford Philosophical texts edition of the present work, edt. Beauchamp, 1998).

83 054 SEK

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