Hume's Reflection On Religion
Cabrera (Miguel A. Badia)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Introduction

  1. For most of my adult life, I have assiduously studied the thought of David Hume, the great eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher. My main goal has been to formulate an organic and comprehensive interpretation of Hume's broad, complex and profound investigation of religion. To my belief, these sustained efforts of elucidation and critical exposition have crystallized in the present work.
  2. Perhaps the unique character of this book is that it approaches Hume's reflection on religion from the unitary perspective of his philosophical project. Throughout, the former is examined from the vantage point of Hume's main ontological, epistemological, and ethical principles. In Parts I and II I have sought to understand Hume's investigation of religion by taking into account the Enlightened ends, both moral and social, that Hume himself ascribes to his philosophical activity. And after tracing some of the deeper historical roots of Hume's scrutiny of religion, I have related his account about the origin, development, and most significant effects of religious beliefs to his own historical works, and conversely taken the former as the leading thread into the disclosure of a Humean philosophy of history that is unitary and consistent. In the final chapters of Part II, his still controversial and seemingly partial theses concerning the eminently irrational and feigned character of religious faith and its inevitable negative effect on morality are critically analyzed from the foundation offered by Hume's epistemological theory of belief and some basic tenets of his ethical philosophy.
  3. Part III examines Hume's attack on the validity of the conclusions of rational theology: that is to say, his critique of the traditional proofs, such as the ontological argument, the appeal to testimony about miracles, and in particular, the argument from design. Finally, the last two chapters tackle the question: what and how much can human reason really establish about the existence and nature of God. On this capital issue, I argue that Hume's view is a kind of mitigated theism. All in all, Parts II and III provide, I think, reasonable support for the most general and maybe up-hill claim of this study, which I have attempted to make intelligible and hopefully convincing in the last chapter: i.e. that although it does not arise from an instinct, and the empirical evidence does not sufficiently justify it, the belief in God, as an intelligent author of the universe, is nonetheless. a natural and, in a non trivial sense, reasonable belief.
  4. It almost goes without saying that this work, by virtue of being the result of a sustained effort of philosophical understanding, is also a very personal endeavor. But in the present case it is doubly so, for religion, I must confess, has been a potent and fateful presence in giving substance and delineating, for better or for worse, the whole texture of the inner and outward life of the person I have become. And I could have said the same thing about the effect of Hume's thought on my character and view of things. In a manner, I would like Hume to become for others what he has been for me since my early youth: the ideal interlocutor and most biting critic with whom I have ever conversed about some of the most pressing practical problems and interesting speculative questions that inevitably confront our fragile human nature, which Hume conceived as a reflective life existing within a world that is often quite hard and always annoyingly silent or, as he would say, enigmatic to our perennial quest. So my greatest hope is that this book may be of value to any person genuinely interested in those questions "of the utmost importance" which religion raises again and again. For Hume, at his best, neatly exemplifies the "Spirit of Impartiality," or critical empathy that is needed for their thorough and truthful philosophical clarification.
  5. But, of course, the present book inserts itself within a long tradition of Hume scholarship. Thus I have also aimed at throwing light on at least a few of the central issues and problems of interpretation that are posed by Hume's diverse works on religion and rational theology, which have puzzled and divided generations of commentators and historians of philosophy. …

Contents
    Preface – xi
    Introduction – 1
  1. Part I: Hume's Scrutiny of Religion: Its Theoretical Foundations, Historical Roots, and Ultimate Goals – 11
    1. Hume's Philosophical Project and his Reflection on Religion – 13
      → 1.1 The "Science of Man" as First Philosophy: Its Nature and Problematical Character – 13
      → 1.2 Hume's First Philosophy and the Reflection on Religion – 30
    2. Brief Historical Setting of Hume's Investigation of Religion – 33
      → 2.1 The Rise and Fall of Natural Religion – 33
      → 2.2 The "Modest" Enlightened Aims of Hume's Critique of Religion – 49
  2. Part II: The Origin, Development and Historical Effects of Religious Beliefs – 57
    1. The Nature of Hume's Investigation of Religion – 59
    2. The Conception of the Phenomenon to be Investigated – 66
      → 4.1 The Permanent Essence of Religion – 66
      → 4.2 The Natural although Not Instinctive Character of Religion – 75
    3. The Origin of Religion: Critical Exposition of Hume's Theory – 86
    4. Religion and History – 107
      → 6.1 The Conception of History in The Natural History of Religion – 107
      → 6.2 The Conception of History in The History of England – 117
      → 6.3 The Conception of History in his Essays – 123
    5. Belief and Faith – 128
      → 7.1 The Problem – 128
      → 7.2 Ordinary Belief about Matters of Fact – 130
      → 7.3 Religious Faith – 139
    6. The Ethical Depreciation of Religion – 153
      → 8.1 Introduction – 153
      → 8.2 The Moral Harmfulness of Religion – 154
      → 8.3 Critical Assessment of Hume's Claim – 161
      → 8.4 The Political and Aesthetic Re-Evaluation of Religion – 169
      → 8.5 Concluding Remarks – 171
  3. Part III: Hume's Natural Theology: The Critique of the Presumed Validity of Religious Beliefs – 173
    1. From Historical Religion to Natural Religion – 175
      → 9.1 Philosophical Religion – 175
      → 9.2 General Remarks Concerning the Critique of Natural Religion – 186
    2. The Impassable Path of A Priori Reasoning: Analysis of Hume's Critique of the Ontological Argument and Its Foundations – 190
      → 10.1 Piety and the Proof – 190
      → 10.2 Hume's Critique and its Foundations – 191
      → 10.3 The Severing of the Common Thread of the Ontological and Cosmological Arguments: the Idea of Necessary Existence – 198
      → 10.4 The Ontological Argument and the Rejection of the Property of Existence – 201
      → 10.5 Some Questions about Hume's Account of Existence and Non-Existence – 203
      → 10.6 The Discreet Historical Effect of Hume's Critique – 209
    3. The Rejection of Miracles: An Attempt to Elucidate the Import of Hume's Critique – 212
      → 11.1 Historical Note – 212
      → 11.2 Analysis of Hume's Argument – 217
      → 11.3 Various Objections to Hume's Procedure – 224
      → 11.4 Locke's Position on the Evidential Value of Miracles and its Affinity with Hume's – 230
      → 11.5 Hume's Conclusion and the Relation of Sect. X to Sect. XI of the Enquiry – 232
    4. The Uncertain Path of Empirical Reasoning, Part I: The Unfolding of Hume's Critique of the Argument from Design – 235
      → 12.1 Introduction – 235
      → 12.2 The Critique in A Treatise of Human Nature – 235
      → 12.3 The Critique in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – 239
      → 12.4 The Critique in The Natural History of Religion – 246
    5. The Uncertain Path of Empirical Reasoning, Part II: The Critique of the Argument from Design in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – 249
      → 13.1 Preliminary Remarks – 249
      → 13.2 Hermeneutic Difficulties of the Dialogues 250
      → 13.3 The Critique of the Design Hypothesis (Introduction, Parts I-V) – 255
      → 13.4 The Naturalistic Alternatives to Theism: Hylozoism and Materialism (Parts VI-IX) – 264
      → 13.5 The Anti-Theodicy (Parts X-XI) – 273
      → 13.6 Hume's Mitigated Theism (Part XII) – 283
  4. Part IV: General Conclusions – 295
    1. The Natural and Reasonable Character of the Belief in an Intelligent Author of the Universe – 297
    Bibliography – 309
    Index – 321

BOOK COMMENT:
  • Springer Science + Business Media, 2001
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