David Hume - Dialogues Concerning Natural

download David Hume - Dialogues Concerning Natural

of 108

  • date post

  • Category


  • view

  • download


Embed Size (px)



Transcript of David Hume - Dialogues Concerning Natural

  • Dialogues Concerning Natural ReligionHume, David

    Published: 1779Categorie(s): Non-Fiction, Human Science, Philosophy, Epistemology,ReligionSource: Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4583/4583-h/4583-h.htm


  • About Hume:David Hume (17111776) was a Scottish philosopher, historian, eco-

    nomist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricismand scepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the historyof Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume is oftengrouped with John Locke, George Berkeley, and a handful of others as aBritish Empiricist. He changed the spelling of his name from the Scottish"Home" in 1734, because "Home" was pronounced as the English pro-nounced "Hume", which was not known in England. Hume attended theUniversity of Edinburgh at the unusually early age of twelve (possibly asyoung as ten) at a time when fourteen was normal. At first he considereda career in law, but came to have, in his words, "an insurmountable aver-sion to everything but the pursuits of Philosophy and general Learning;and while [my family] fanceyed I was poring over Voet and Vinnius,Cicero and Virgil were the Authors which I was secretly devouring." Hehad little respect for the professors of his time, telling a friend in 1735,"there is nothing to be learnt from a Professor, which is not to be metwith in Books." He found employment at various times as a merchant'sclerk and as a tutor, while continuing to study philosophy and write hisworks, the first of which, A Treatise of Human Nature, he completed at age26. It was not well received by critics in Great Britain. In 1744 Hume ap-plied for the Chair of Pneumatics and Moral Philosophy at theUniversity of Edinburgh. However, the position was given to someoneelse after Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to appointHume because he was seen as an atheist. Later, Hume was charged withheresy, but he was defended by his young clerical friends, who arguedthat as an atheist he was outside the Church's jurisdiction. Despitehis acquittal, Hume failed to gain the chair of philosophy at theUniversity of Glasgow. Hume wrote on the subjects of philosophy(especially on epistemology how one knows something to be true), re-ligion, history, and politics. Through his discussions on politics, Humedeveloped many ideas that are prevalent in the field of economics today.This includes ideas on private property, inflation, and foreign trade. Re-ferring to Hume's essay "Of the Balance of Trade," Paul Krugman (aNobel-prize-winning economist) has remarked " David Hume createdwhat I consider the first true economic model." (Reference: Wikipedia)

    Also available on Feedbooks for Hume: Of Money, and Other Economic Essays (1777)


  • Note: This book is brought to you by Feedbookshttp://www.feedbooks.comStrictly for personal use, do not use this file for commercial purposes.



    It has been remarked, my HERMIPPUS, that though the ancient philo-sophers conveyed most of their instruction in the form of dialogue, thismethod of composition has been little practised in later ages, and has sel-dom succeeded in the hands of those who have attempted it. Accurateand regular argument, indeed, such as is now expected of philosophicalinquirers, naturally throws a man into the methodical and didactic man-ner; where he can immediately, without preparation, explain the point atwhich he aims; and thence proceed, without interruption, to deduce theproofs on which it is established. To deliver a SYSTEM in conversation,scarcely appears natural; and while the dialogue-writer desires, by de-parting from the direct style of composition, to give a freer air to his per-formance, and avoid the appearance of Author and Reader, he is apt torun into a worse inconvenience, and convey the image of Pedagogue andPupil. Or, if he carries on the dispute in the natural spirit of good com-pany, by throwing in a variety of topics, and preserving a proper balanceamong the speakers, he often loses so much time in preparations andtransitions, that the reader will scarcely think himself compensated, byall the graces of dialogue, for the order, brevity, and precision, which aresacrificed to them.

    There are some subjects, however, to which dialogue-writing is peculi-arly adapted, and where it is still preferable to the direct and simplemethod of composition.

    Any point of doctrine, which is so obvious that it scarcely admits ofdispute, but at the same time so important that it cannot be too often in-culcated, seems to require some such method of handling it; where thenovelty of the manner may compensate the triteness of the subject;where the vivacity of conversation may enforce the precept; and wherethe variety of lights, presented by various personages and characters,may appear neither tedious nor redundant.

    Any question of philosophy, on the other hand, which is so OBSCUREand UNCERTAIN, that human reason can reach no fixed determinationwith regard to it; if it should be treated at all, seems to lead us naturallyinto the style of dialogue and conversation. Reasonable men may be al-lowed to differ, where no one can reasonably be positive. Opposite senti-ments, even without any decision, afford an agreeable amusement; and ifthe subject be curious and interesting, the book carries us, in a manner,


  • into company; and unites the two greatest and purest pleasures of hu-man life, study and society.

    Happily, these circumstances are all to be found in the subject ofNATURAL RELIGION. What truth so obvious, so certain, as the being ofa God, which the most ignorant ages have acknowledged, for which themost refined geniuses have ambitiously striven to produce new proofsand arguments? What truth so important as this, which is the ground ofall our hopes, the surest foundation of morality, the firmest support ofsociety, and the only principle which ought never to be a moment absentfrom our thoughts and meditations? But, in treating of this obvious andimportant truth, what obscure questions occur concerning the nature ofthat Divine Being, his attributes, his decrees, his plan of providence?These have been always subjected to the disputations of men; concerningthese human reason has not reached any certain determination. But theseare topics so interesting, that we cannot restrain our restless inquiry withregard to them; though nothing but doubt, uncertainty, and contradic-tion, have as yet been the result of our most accurate researches.

    This I had lately occasion to observe, while I passed, as usual, part ofthe summer season with CLEANTHES, and was present at those conver-sations of his with PHILO and DEMEA, of which I gave you lately someimperfect account. Your curiosity, you then told me, was so excited, thatI must, of necessity, enter into a more exact detail of their reasonings,and display those various systems which they advanced with regard toso delicate a subject as that of natural religion. The remarkable contrastin their characters still further raised your expectations; while you op-posed the accurate philosophical turn of CLEANTHES to the carelessscepticism of PHILO, or compared either of their dispositions with the ri-gid inflexible orthodoxy of DEMEA. My youth rendered me a mere aud-itor of their disputes; and that curiosity, natural to the early season oflife, has so deeply imprinted in my memory the whole chain and connec-tion of their arguments, that, I hope, I shall not omit or confound anyconsiderable part of them in the recital.


  • Part 1


  • After I joined the company, whom I found sitting in CLEANTHES'slibrary, DEMEA paid CLEANTHES some compliments on the great carewhich he took of my education, and on his unwearied perseverance andconstancy in all his friendships. The father of PAMPHILUS, said he, wasyour intimate friend: The son is your pupil; and may indeed be regardedas your adopted son, were we to judge by the pains which you bestow inconveying to him every useful branch of literature and science. You areno more wanting, I am persuaded, in prudence, than in industry. I shall,therefore, communicate to you a maxim, which I have observed with re-gard to my own children, that I may learn how far it agrees with yourpractice. The method I follow in their education is founded on the sayingof an ancient, "That students of philosophy ought first to learn logics, then eth-ics, next physics, last of all the nature of the gods." 1 This science of naturaltheology, according to him, being the most profound and abstruse ofany, required the maturest judgement in its students; and none but amind enriched with all the other sciences, can safely be entrusted with it.

    Are you so late, says PHILO, in teaching your children the principlesof religion? Is there no danger of their neglecting, or rejecting altogetherthose opinions of which they have heard so little during the wholecourse of their education? It is only as a science, replied DEMEA, subjec-ted to human reasoning and disputation, that I postpone the study ofNatural Theology. To season their minds with early piety, is my chiefcare; and by continual precept and instruction, and I hope too by ex-ample, I imprint deeply on their tender minds an habitual reverence forall the principles of religion. While they pass through every other sci-ence, I still remark the uncertainty of each part; the eternal disputationsof men; the obscurity of all philosophy; and the strange, ridiculous con-clusions, which some of the greatest geniuses have derived from theprinciples of mere human reason. Having thus tamed their mind to aproper submission and self-diffidence, I have no longer any scruple ofopening to them the greatest mysteries of religion; nor apprehend anydanger from that assuming arrogance of philosophy, which may leadthem to reject the mos