Four Dissertations

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Introduction of Four Dissertations by John Immerwahr, Introduction of Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul by John Valdimir Price, Preface by James Feiser. 390 pages, paperback, 1757 edition of Four Dissertations; 1783 edition of Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul.

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Four Dissertations

and Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul

Hume, David

In 1756 a volume of Hue's essays entitled Five Dissertations was printed and ready for distribution. The essays included "The Natural History of Religion," "Of the Passions," "Of Tragedy," "Of Suicide," and "Of the Immortality of the Soul." The latter two essays made direct attacks on common religious doctrines by defending a person's moral right to commit suicide and by criticizing the idea of life after death. Early copies were passed around, and someone of influence threatened to prosecute Hume's publisher if the book was distributed as is. The printed copies of Five Dissertations were then physically altered with a new essay, "Of the Standard of Taste" inserted in place of the two removed essays. Hume also took this opportunity to alter two particularly offending paragraphs in the Natural History. The essays were then bound with the new title Four Dissertations and distributed in Jan. 1757.

The essays in Four Dissertations stand together as a unified whole, showcasing his psychology of the passions and demonstrating its application to both religion and aesthetics.

The edition also includes Hume's extended Dedication, a passionate endorsement of intellectual and artistic freedom, which has been out of print since the original publication in 1757.

The essays on suicide and the immortality of the soul, long separated from the other essays, are here finally put back, as intended by Hume. Included are "Two Letters on Suicide" from Rousseau's Eloisa.