Hume's Rhetorical Strategy: Three Views

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (3):243–259 (2021)


In the Fragment on Evil, Hume announces that he “shall not employ any rhetoric in a philosophical argument, where reason alone ought to be hearkened to.” To employ the rhetorical strategy, in the context of the Fragment, just is to “enumerate all the evils, incident to human life, and display them, with eloquence, in their proper colours.” However, in Part 11 of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume employs precisely this rhetorical strategy. I discuss three interpretations that might account for Hume’s decision to employ the strategy in the Dialogues but not the Fragment. The heart of this discussion concerns the relationship between reason and rhetoric. The Dialogues can be understood as part of the education of Pamphilus. Consequently, the three interpretations align with three ways of understanding the roles that reason and rhetoric play in Hume’s views on pedagogy and education (or more specifically, Philo’s attitude towards the education of Pamphilus).

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Daryl Ooi
National University of Singapore

References found in this work

Doxastic Naturalism and Hume's Voice in the Dialogues.C. M. Lorkowski - 2016 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 14 (3):253-274.
True Religion in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.Tim Black & Robert Gressis - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (2):244-264.
Hume on Education.Dan O'Brien - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):619-642.

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