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No Abiding City: Hume, Naturalism, and Toleration1

  • Samuel Clark (a1)

This paper rereads David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as dramatising a distinctive, naturalistic account of toleration. I have two purposes in mind: first, to complete and ground Hume's fragmentary explicit discussion of toleration; second, to unearth a potentially attractive alternative to more recent, Rawlsian approaches to toleration. To make my case, I connect Dialogues and the problem of toleration to the wider themes of naturalism, scepticism and their relation in Hume's thought, before developing a new interpretation of Dialogues part 12 as political drama. Finally, I develop the Humean theory of toleration I have discovered by comparison between Rawls's and Hume's strategies for justification of a tolerant political regime.

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Preston King , Toleration (New York: St Martin's Press, 1976)

Catriona McKinnon , Toleration: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2006)

Richard Dees , ‘ “The Paradoxical Principle and Salutary Practice”: Hume on toleration’, Hume Studies 31 (2005), 145–64, 159

John O. Nelson , ‘The Role of Part XII in Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, Hume Studies 14 (1988), 347–72

Richard Dees , ‘Morality Above Metaphysics: friendship and Philo's stance in Dialogues XII’, Hume Studies 28 (2002), 131–47

John W. Danford , ‘ “The Surest Foundation of Morality”: the political teaching of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, The Western Political Quarterly 35 (1982), 137–60

B. M. Laing , ‘Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, Philosophy 12 (1937), 175–90

James Noxon , ‘Hume's Agnosticism’, Philosophical Review 73 (1964), 248–61

J. C. A. Gaskin , Hume's Philosophy of Religion (2nd edn, London: Macmillan, 1988)

John Bricke , who argues that ‘it is a fundamental mistake to assume that one of the characters in the Dialogues serves as the author's primary spokesman’ (‘On the Interpretation of Hume's Dialogues’, Religious Studies 11 (1975), 118, 3)

Michael Sandel , Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Samuel Clark , ‘Society Against Societies: the possiblity of transcultural criticism’, Res Publica 13 (2007), 107125

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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