The Hume Society
Bookshelves image
Portrait of David Hume (detail) by Allan Ramsey (1754)

P.H. Nidditch (1928–1983)

U. of Sussex

Peter Nidditch was born in London on 15 September 1928 and died in Sheffield on 12 February 1983. After attending Clifton College, he enrolled at Birkbeck College, London, where he wrote an MA thesis on Pascal (1951), and a doctoral thesis on ‘Language and Modern Logic’ (1953). He lectured at Belfast (1954-6), Liverpool (1956-9) and Bristol (1959-63), before becoming senior lecturer and then reader in the philosophy and history of science at the University of Sussex, where he chaired the Logic, History and Policy of Science division. In 1969 he became Professor of Philosophy and Head of Department at the University of Sheffield. In 1980 he received London University’s DLit degree.

Nidditch made his early reputation in the history and philosophy of logic and mathematics, publishing mostly brief papers and a succession of textbooks. The services to the history of philosophy that marked his later years are strictly textual. From 1973 he was general editor of the Clarendon Locke Edition. His outstanding collation and edition of Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding (1975), completed without computer assistance, baffled the philosophical establishment but transformed the status of textual scholarship in philosophy; he also established new standards for manuscript transcription. Though well read, he claimed no skills as a commentator, and he left it to others to show that textual collations can bring exegetical rewards.

Selected from M.A. Stewart, The Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers (2005), ed. Stuart Brown.

Nidditch edited the 2nd Oxford edition of the Treatise, bringing it out in 1978. Apart from correcting a number of minor textual errors, he added Hume’s Abstract of the Treatise, plus a ten-page section of notes on variant readings. In 1976 he published An Apparatus of variant readings for Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, including a catalogue of Hume’s manuscript amendments (55pp).


“Students of philosophy should be urged not to assume that current editions of philosophical classics are everywhere or equally reliable; and they should be led to appreciate the work of textual scholarship (concerned with the history and establishment of texts, and the provision of glosses and other annotations) that is necessary for the faithful preservation and the understanding of the classics.”
July 1974P.H.N.

Thus began the short preface Nidditch added to the 3rd edition of Selby-Bigge’s Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals (Clarendon Press, 1975).


“Review of Roland Hall, Fifty Years of Hume Scholarship: A Bibliographical Guide
P.H. Nidditch, Hume Studies (November 1979)

The Hume Society receives institutional support from Illinois Wesleyan University and from St. Olaf College.
© 2019 The Hume Society     Contact:     Last update: December 5, 2015