Gene Fendt
University of Nebraska at Kearney
Pamphilus’ introductory letter opens contradictory ways of reading Hume’s Dialogues. The first, suggested by Pamphilus' claim to be “mere auditor” to the dialogues, which were “deeply imprinted in [his] memory,” is the empiricist reading. This traditional reading could, and has, gone several ways, including to such conclusions as Philo forces upon Cleanthes, shocking Demea; e.g., that the design of the mosquito and other “curious artifices of nature,” which inflict pain and suffering on all, bespeaks an utterly careless and insensate, if not malign creator. Pamphilus' preface also opens a more philosophical reading implied in his consideration of the ancient literary form of dialogue. This second interpretive path suspects more design in writing, and more revealed in it, than the simple empiricist reading(s) allow. Dialogically elucidating the Dialogues confronts us with the limits of empiricism in moral and religious philosophy. Hume's last work, if read philosophically, exhibits the vacancy of empiricism.
Keywords Hume  Limits of Empiricism  Problem of evil  Dialogue form  tabula rasa  empiricist ethics  justice
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DOI 10.5840/ipq2021419170
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