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Title: The taming of religion : Hume's sceptical theism and his criticism of vulgar religion in context
Author: Hartl, Peter Zoltan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 2949
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2019
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This dissertation aims to give a novel interpretation of Hume's criticism of religion, his position on theism, and his conception of true religion. Hume's philosophy of religion and his general epistemological views, as well as his theory of belief, are investigated in their historical context and contrasted with the main alternative views in the philosophy of religion in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. My interpretation broadly follows the scholars (including Gaskin, 1988; Livingston, 1998; Yoder, 2008; and Willis, 2015) who take Hume's affirmative theistic passages as sincere expressions of his views and consequently read Hume as a non-Christian, irreligious philosophical theist. However, this dissertation will defend a different and more nuanced perspective on Hume's theism and religion than those put forward by these scholars. This dissertation reconstructs Hume's position as developed in a clear direction from minimal theism to an agnostic, indeterminate view on God. Concerning his position on theism, two different periods in Hume's intellectual life are distinguished: the first, his minimal theist period, stretches from his A Letter from a Gentleman (1745) to around 1776; the second, Hume's agnostic/indeterminate period, begins in (or shortly before) 1776. The ironic-atheist interpretation of Hume is also criticised in detail. Hume's major texts on the philosophy of religion are scrutinised in separate chapters. The detailed contextualised analysis of theistic statements by Hume shows that he was a minimal theist (with an exception in 1776). I shall present possible explanations of how Hume (in his pre-1776, minimal theist-period) could sincerely embrace minimal theism on the one hand and criticise natural theology on the other. To examine the connections between Hume's philosophy of religion and the other fields of his philosophy (including epistemology and moral philosophy), and also to supplement the analysis of his late position on agnosticism, this dissertation will examine Hume's sentimentalist criticism of the view that God has a moral character and human-like psychology, as well as his criticism of anthropomorphic 2 ideas in religion, presented in The Natural History of Religion. This dissertation also explicates how various aspects of Hume's philosophy - Hume's theory of emotions and his sentimentalism, as well as his philosophy of religion in general - are interconnected. In accordance with the thesis that Hume's position on theism developed from theism into agnosticism, my interpretation of Hume's conception of true religion diverges from those of thinkers who attribute to Hume a stable and unchanging position on theism (for instance, Livingston, Gaskin and Yoder). Building on the discussion of Hume's theory of emotions and his sentimentalism, as well as his critique of anthropomorphism, I defend a picture of Hume's true religion as a sublimed, an intellectualised and a tamed version of religious feelings and inclinations which helps us to regulate and moderate passions. In a sense, true religion coincides with a proper philosophical discussion on God. For Hume, true religion - both in the form of minimal theism and agnosticism - is intellectually and practically superior to both materialistic atheism and traditional Christianity.
Supervisor: Moretti, Luca ; Luzzi, Federico Walter Sponsor: University of Aberdeen
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Religion ; Theism ; Agnosticism