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Was Hume an Atheist? A Reconsideration

(Original title: Was Hume an Atheist? A Reconsideration)
Filozofia, 2011, vol. 66, No 3, pp. 240-257.
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In The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise, Paul Russell claims that scholars describing Hume simply as a skeptic or agnostic fail to recognize his irreligious objectives. Russell summarizes Hume’s philosophy in three points. First, Hume endorses thin theism which is theoretically empty and of little practical use. Second, Hume’s outlook is characterized by a permanent and strong antipathy towards religion. Third, the science of man, constructed by Hume in his Treatise, intends to establish a godless worldview. Hence, Hume’s views on religion could be described as atheistic or irreligious. However, this author feels that Russell fails to capture the essence of Hume’s philosophy of religion in that it may allow a place for religion. First, Hume’s deism is neither empty nor of little use; therefore, Hume’s endorsement of thin theism cannot be interpreted as de facto atheism. Second, Hume’s antipathy for religion is directed towards specific religions, namely, Catholicism and Pro- testantism, and not religion in general. Therefore, describing Hume’s attitude as “irreligious” is clearly misleading. Third, Hume’s science of man is based on the precept of a methodological naturalist with no interest in metaphysical beings. Therefore, it cannot be said that Hume sought to establish a godless worldview.

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