Hume's lucretian mission: Is it self-refuting?

The Monist 90 (2):182-199 (2007)
Hume’s famous and influential contributions to the philosophy of religion pursue two broad themes that have deep links with his general sceptical and naturalistic commitments throughout his philosophy as a whole.1 The first is his sceptical critique of the philosophical arguments and doctrines of various (Christian) theological systems. The second is his naturalistic account of the origins and roots of religion in human nature. Taken together, these two themes serve to advance Hume’s “Lucretian mission”, which was to discredit and dislodge the role of religion in human life. In this paper I consider the criticism that Hume’s entire Lucretian mission is fundamentally misguided and misconceived as judged in terms of his own claims and hypotheses concerning religion. More specifically, it may be argued that if Hume is right about the foundations of religion in human nature and the human predicament, then his Lucretian mission is neither wise nor achievable. His project is, in other words, both theoretically self-refuting and practically self-defeating. Drawing from Hume’s writings on this subject, I will suggest a set of replies and responses to these criticisms.
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