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Another look at Hume's treatment of the argument from design in the Natural History of Religion



This article argues that Hume's seemingly peculiar treatment of the argument from design in his Natural History of Religion is not indicative of a radical, or even modest, shift in his overall epistemic evaluation of it. His focus is on the argument's impact on the psychology of religious believers, and not its rational acceptability. Hume never strays far from his stated intention for the work, to engage in a socio-psychological analysis of the nature of religious belief, including a thorough assessment of the role of the argument from design. Hume concludes that the argument is inconsequential to religious belief formation.


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Falkenstein, Lorne (2003) ‘Hume's project in “The Natural History of Religion”’, Religious Studies, 39, 121.
Garrett, Don (2012) ‘What's true about Hume's “true religion”?’, The Journal of Scottish Philosophy, 10, 199220.
Hume, David (2007a) Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, Coleman, Dorothy (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge).
Hume, David (2007b) A Treatise of Human Nature, Norton, D. F. and Norton, M. (eds) (Oxford: Clarendon).
Hume, David (2008) A Dissertation on the Passions and the Natural History of Religion, Beauchamp, Tom L. (ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon).
Kail, P. J. E. (2007) ‘Understanding Hume's Natural History of Religion ’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 57, 190211.
Malherbe, Michel (1995) ‘Hume's Natural History of Religion ’, Hume Studies, 21, 255274.
Marušić, Jennifer Smalligan (2012) ‘Refuting the whole system? Hume's attack on popular religion in The Natural History of Religion ’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 62, 716736.
Webb, Mark (1991) ‘The argument of the Natural History ’, Hume Studies, 17, 141160.
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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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