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A Dialogic Interpretation of Hume's Dialogues

A Dialogic Interpretation of Hume's Dialogues William Lad Sessions For all of its prominence in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy of religion, Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion continues to provoke divergent readings, especially as regards its author's intentions and beliefs. Most writers today, following Norman Kemp Smith's masterful analysis, accept some version of what I will call "the standard interpretation": Hume aimed to discredit religion--natural and revealed religion alike, but especially the "experimental theism" represented by Cleanthes' so-called "design argument." Hence, the sceptic "Philo represents Hume's views on religious belief," even though Cleanthes (occasionally) and Demea (rarely) also speak for Hume.1 But a significant minority have given divergent interpretations: some have held that Pamphilus, the narrator of the Dialogues, is Hume;2 some have given credence to Hume's remark in a letter that "I make Dialogues] Cleanthes the Hero of the Dialogue";3 others think that none of the characters represent Hume, at least not consistently, either because the characters represent types, not individuals,4 or because none are "wholly consistent, completely clear-headed, and unmuddled throughout,"5 or because "it is the whole of the dialogue which represents Hume."6 One interpreter has even gone so far as to declare that "I shall take it that Hume in the Dialogues is http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Hume Studies Hume Society

A Dialogic Interpretation of Hume's Dialogues

Hume Studies , Volume 17 (1) – Jan 26, 1991

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Hume Society
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Copyright © Hume Society
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1947-9921
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Abstract

William Lad Sessions For all of its prominence in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy of religion, Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion continues to provoke divergent readings, especially as regards its author's intentions and beliefs. Most writers today, following Norman Kemp Smith's masterful analysis, accept some version of what I will call "the standard interpretation": Hume aimed to discredit religion--natural and revealed religion alike, but especially the "experimental theism" represented by Cleanthes' so-called "design argument." Hence, the sceptic "Philo represents Hume's views on religious belief," even though Cleanthes (occasionally) and Demea (rarely) also speak for Hume.1 But a significant minority have given divergent interpretations: some have held that Pamphilus, the narrator of the Dialogues, is Hume;2 some have given credence to Hume's remark in a letter that "I make Dialogues] Cleanthes the Hero of the Dialogue";3 others think that none of the characters represent Hume, at least not consistently, either because the characters represent types, not individuals,4 or because none are "wholly consistent, completely clear-headed, and unmuddled throughout,"5 or because "it is the whole of the dialogue which represents Hume."6 One interpreter has even gone so far as to declare that "I shall take it that Hume in the Dialogues is

Journal

Hume StudiesHume Society

Published: Jan 26, 1991

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