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How Natural is Religion?,
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This review is from: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Kindle Edition)
David Hume was one of the most prominent eighteenth century philosophers and a towering figure in the Scottish enlightenment. Together with John Locke and George Berkeley he is considered to be one of the members of the British empiricist movement. As most other enlightenment thinkers, he has consistently emphasized the roles of reason and empirical evidence in establishing the truth of various intellectual claims.
As the name suggests, "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" is a collection of philosophical discourses written in a form of series of dialogues. The choice of presenting various arguments in form of statements from several interlocutors echoes Socratic dialogues and Plato's approach to philosophy. However, Hume's own approach is more closely modeled on Cicero's "De Natura Deorum," as well as Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." Hume sets on the task of establishing what sorts of properties are most "natural" for a religion to have in the light of logical and empirical evidence. The three conversant, Cleanthes, Philo and Demea present various arguments for the existence or nonexistence of deity, his properties, and our attitude towards them. The issues that are discussed include the argument from design, the anthropocentric view of god, the existence of evil in the universe, and several others. The arguments tend to be subtle at times, and although this book is written in a very accessible language, the phrasing and the forms of argumentation will be a challenge to the modern readers. It is interesting to point out that the naturalness and validity of religion as such is not challenged at all in this tract, only its scope and validity as can be deduced from the purely rational and empirical arguments. Hume's own view on religion has never been explicitly stated, and although he has long been suspected of being an atheist, the most likely position that he espoused is that of deist agnosticism.
It is always a pleasure to read the works of historically important thinkers in their original form, and this short book enables anyone interested in the history of philosophy to get a better sense of one of its greatest stars.