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Dialogues and Natural History of Religion 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199538324
ISBN-10: 0199538328
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About the Author

David Hume was an eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher, historian, and essayist, and the author of A Treatise of Human Nature, considered by many to be one of the most important philosophical works ever published.

Hume attended the University of Edinburgh at an early age and considered a career in law before deciding that the pursuit of knowledge was his true calling. Hume s writings on rationalism and empiricism, free will, determinism, and the existence of God would be enormously influential on contemporaries such as Adam Smith, as well as the philosophers like Schopenhauer, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Popper, who succeeded him. Hume died in 1776.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538324
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.5 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful collection of Hume's most famous and influential writings on religion. Few books I've encountered include this much first-rate philosophy for the price, and so I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Hume's thinking about religion. It includes the section on miracles from Hume's Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals and the full versions of both The Natural History of Religion and the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. (Hume's short autobiography, "My Own Life," is also included.) Furthermore, Gaskin has provided some helpful editorial material: there's a useful introductory essay discussing the selections, and he includes explanatory notes that clarify some of Hume's more obscure references.
The central theme of Hume's religious thought is the central theme of his philosophical thought as a whole--namely the extent of our ignorance and the impotence of human reason to discover the things we really want to discover. And, for this reason, his writing on religion provides a good illustration of his general philosophical method: he begins by pointing out the impotence of reason, and then he offers a naturalistic psychological explanation of why we continue to think as we do. Our tendency to believe various religious thesis, he argues, cannot be explained as a justifiable way of thinking about the world that we arrive at through the use of reason. It is, instead, explained by certain general principles governing the operation of human minds. And two major works in this volume illustrate the two components of Hume's philosophical method. In the Dialogues he argues that neither empirical research nor the a priori exercise of reason is likely to reveal that our religious beliefs are justified.
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Format: Paperback
Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is by far the most fascinating and critical look at religion I have ever read. The work is extremely well thought-out and, in my opinion, unbiased as well. As the editor, J.C.A. Gaskin, points out, Hume, in expressing points of view opposing to his own, portrays these views accurately and succeeds in anticipating his oponents' counter-arguments.
Second to the magnificence of Hume's ideas, the greatest thing about this book (and Hume's work in general) is the complete clarity of his writing and the ease with which the reader can follow the logical progression of his ideas.
I consider Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion to be Hume's greatest work. Regardless of your personal beliefs, Hume will make you re-think your views about religion and the universe.
Very highly recommended to all, skeptics and non-skeptics alike.
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Format: Paperback
David Hume, a philosopher of the period often classified as British Empiricism, is the intellectual associate of philosophers John Locke and George Berkeley. Born in Edinburgh in 1711, he attended the University of Edinburgh but did not graduate. He went to France during his 20s, and spent time there working on what would become his most famous work, 'An Enquiry into Human Understanding', first published under the title 'Treatise of Human Nature'. However, Hume was a prolific writer, and dealt with many areas of philosophy, including politics and ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. He wrote in the area of history as well, and had a politic career as British ambassador to France and a post as a minister in the government for a few years. His final work, 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion', was published posthumously in 1779, although work had begun on it as early as the 1750s.

Hume was very concerned about rationality. Hume was never publicly and explicitly an atheist, but his rational mind, concerned about sensory and intelligible evidence, led him to question and doubt most major systems of religion, including the more general philosophical sense of religion and proofs of the existence of God. The primary arguments in his 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' deal with the Argument from Design, and the Cosmological Argument. There is an assumed distinction here between natural religion and revealed religion, an especially important distinction in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophical structure.
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Gaskin and Oxford U.P. have wisely assembled Hume's two major works on religion in one volume, for they must be read together. The first sentence of the "Natural History" distinguishes two questions about religion, "that concerning its foundation in reason, and that concerning its origin in human nature" (p. 134). It goes on to declare that "happily" the first admits of an obvious answer: "the whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author". This takes away much of the sting of what follows, which is an attempt to show that, given human nature as it is, religious belief is an entirely natural phenomenon. Placed as we are in the world, and without much understanding of it, we need to believe in a superior being or beings, and accordingly do. Hume pretends that the religious belief he is examining is mainly pagan, but it clearly covers Catholicism as well as Judaism and Islam, and might well cover some sorts of Protestantism. Generally, however, Protestant Christianity is spoken of as if it were a significant exception, a pure religion which can be given a rational foundation in the argument from design. It is this claim which is challenged and destroyed for ever in the "Dialogues". The idea that the crudities of traditional practice and belief can be set aside if only we follow enlightened persons like Cleanthes turns out to be hopelessly false, despite the sympathetic words of part 12. The result can only be that natural theology proper is impossible.

Where, then, does Hume stand about religion? The answer is very much where he stands about belief in an external world. He does not accept the uncritical claims of the Vulgar, and thinks there are fatal objections to the arguments of Philosophers.
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