Hume Texts Online

Four Dissertations (1757)

prepared by Amyas Merivale

The Natural History of Religion, the Dissertation on the Passions, and Of Tragedy were originally intended for a set of four dissertations alongside an essay on the metaphysical principles of geometry. Shortly before publication, however, Hume was persuaded by Lord Stanhope “that either there was some Defect in the Argument [of this fourth dissertation] or in its perspicuity” (HL 2, p. 253), and he removed it from the set. Being advised by his publisher that the other three alone were not long enough for publication, Hume sent the two scandalous essays Of Suicide and Of the Immortality of the Soul to fill the gap. “They were printed;” continued Hume in the letter to William Strahan already quoted, “but it was no sooner done than I repented; and Mr Millar and I agreed to suppress them at common charges, and I wrote a new Essay on the Standard of Taste to supply their place.” (ibid.)