True religion in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (2):244-264 (2017)
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Abstract

Many think that the aim of Hume’s Dialogues is simply to discredit the design argument for the existence of an intelligent designer. We think instead that the Dialogues provides a model of true religion. We argue that, for Hume, the truly religious person: believes that an intelligent designer created and imposed order on the universe; grounds this belief in an irregular argument rooted in a certain kind of experience, for example, in the experience of anatomizing complex natural systems such as the eye; and retains this belief, on the basis of these reasons, even after careful scrutiny. We argue that two of the Dialogues’s characters, Philo and Cleanthes, exhibit true religion. A third character, Demea, exhibits false religion and a persistent impiety. Taken as a whole, we see the Dialogues as an educational performance for the benefit of Pamphilus, Cleanthes’s ward, as well as for the benefit of readers of the Dialogues. Specifically, we think, given that its lessons concern theology and the principles of religion, the dynamics of the Dialogues’s discussion and the interplay between its characters can be seen as a demonstration of a method for becoming truly religious.

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Author Profiles

Tim Black
California State University, Northridge
Robert Gressis
California State University, Northridge

Citations of this work

Hume's Rhetorical Strategy: Three Views.Daryl Ooi - 2021 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (3):243–259.
Epistemic Idolatry and Intellectual Vice.Josh Dolin - 2022 - American Philosophical Quarterly 59 (3):219-231.
Hume's Pious Theist: Pamphilus.James Tarrant - 2021 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (2):95-113.
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References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1969 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by Ernest Campbell Mossner.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Dialogues concerning natural religion.David Hume - 1779/1998 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Philosophical Review. Blackwell. pp. 338-339.
The Natural History of Religion.David Hume - 1757 - Oxford [Eng.]: Macmillan Pub. Co.. Edited by James Fieser.
.Antony Flew - 1976 - In ``The Presumption of Atheism&Quot. New York: Barnes & Noble.

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