Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; (1907)by David Hume
N professing to call attention to this often forgotten work of the great Scottish philosopher, one cannot help noticing how very similar the reception accorded to it by the outside world has been to its treatment at the hands of the author himself. During his lifetime he kept it in the safe obscurity of his study drawer, where it lay until the day of his death. The… See more details below
- LendMe LendMe™ Learn More
N professing to call attention to this often forgotten work of the great Scottish philosopher, one cannot help noticing how very similar the reception accorded to it by the outside world has been to its treatment at the hands of the author himself. During his lifetime he kept it in the safe obscurity of his study drawer, where it lay until the day of his death. The plan of the Dialogues had been clearly thought out by Hume as early as 1750, and the active period of his contribution to philosophy proper having closed almost in the same year, this excursion of his into natural theology might most fitly have been pre sented to his readers at once, especially if, as it seems to us now, it may be rightly regarded as the crown and consummation of his earlier speculations. Indeed some such conception of the relation of the Dialogues to his other works underlies the outlining of his scheme upon its first page, where he founds his method "on the saying of an ancient [Chrysippus], That students of philosophy ought first to learn Logics, then Ethics, next Physics, last of all the nature of the Gods."
From that year onwards, however, his literary activity was directed into other and less speculative channels, and though the book undoubtedly existed in manuscript, and was from time to time submitted to his philo sophical friends for their opinion, it was as good as lost for the estimating of his whole position by his contemporaries. In the inner circle of savants, who were vaguely aware of its existence, considerable fear prevailed as to what approaching cataclysm the ap pearance of the "terrible David" upon the theological horizon might portend; and as year after year passed safely by, their dis trust of the threatened publication of his meaning only increased the more. When a book has such a history behind it, there is naturally every reason to expect that its contents may have been varied considerably by corrections, omissions, and insertions from the author's own hand. But provided always that the manuscript copy (now preserved in the library of the Royal Society of Edin burgh) from which it was first published in 1779, was the original draft, there can have been only the most trivial amendments, and the main lines of the argument were left untouched, Mr Hill Burton's verdict 1 on this point is that, " while the sentiments appear to be substantially the same as when they were first set down, the alterations in the method of announcing them are a register of the improvements in their author's style for a period apparently of twenty - seven years." From what I have seen of the manuscript I should say, first, that the alterations upon the face of it are largely verbal; and secondly, that this particular copy is of later date than that which Hume invited his friend, Sir Gilbert Elliott, to criticise in 1751.
The question whether the whole work was ever substantially recast in the years during which Hume kept it by him cannot be definitely answered here. If, however, in at least one letter, the author asks for as sistance and advice in the endeavour to 1 Life of Hume, i. 328.
render the argument on one side or the other "quite formal and regular," the pos sibility of a more or less thorough redaction having taken place must not be overlooked. 1 So much is certain, that by retaining the book unpublished he had opportunity of bringing it to a higher pitch of perfection, and that, ac cordingly, its sentiments may safely be regarded as the mature expression of his religious and theological opinions in strict accordance with his empirical philosophy.
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 480 KB
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >