The Riddle of Hume's Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion

The Riddle of Hume's Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion

by Paul Russell

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The Riddle of Hume's Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion by Paul Russell

Although it is widely recognized that David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1729-40) belongs among the greatest works of philosophy, there is little aggreement about the correct way to interpret his fundamental intentions.
The solution to this riddle depends on challenging another, closely related, point of orthodoxy: namely, that before Hume published the Treatise he removed almost all material concerned with problems of religion. Russell argues, contrary to this view, that irreligious aims and objectives are fundamental to the Treatise and account for its underlying unity and coherence. It is Hume's basic anti-Christian aims and objectives that serve to shape and direct both his skeptical and naturalistic commitments. When Hume's arguments are viewed from this perspective we can solve, not only puzzles arising from his discussion of various specific issues, we can also explain the intimate and intricate connections that hold his entire project together.

This "irreligious" interpretation provides a comprehensive fresh account of the nature of Hume's fundamental aims and ambitions in the Treatise. It also presents a radically different picture of the way in which Hume's project was rooted in the debates and controversies of his own time, placing the Treatise in an irreligious or anti-Christian philosophical tradition that includes Hobbes, Spinoza and freethinking followers. Considered in these terms, Hume's Treatise constitutes the crowning achievement of the Radical Enlightenment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199751525
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 06/15/2010
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 442
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paul Russell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the University of Gothenburg. He is also the author of Freedom and Moral Sentiment and editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Hume and (with Oisin Deery) of the The Philosophy Free Will.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations of Hume's Writings Used in Citations
I. Riddles, Critics, and Monsters: Text and Context
1. The Riddle
2. "Atheism" and Hume's Early Critics
3. Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists
4. Newtonianism, Freethought, and Hume's Scottish Context
5. The Monster of Atheism: Its Being and Attributes
II. The Form and Face of Hume's System
6. A Hobbist Plan
7. Atheism under Cover: Esoteric Communication on Hume's Title Pages
III. The Nature of Hume's Universe
8. Blind Men before a Fire: Empiricism and the Idea of Good
9. Making Nothing of "Almighty Space"
10. The Argument a Priori and Hume's "Curious Nostrum"
11. Induction, Analogy, and a Future State: Hume's "Guide of Life"
12. Matter, Omnipotence, and Our Idea of Necessity
13. Skepticism, Deception, and the Material World
14. Immateriality, Immortality, and the Human Soul
15. The Practical Pyrrhonist
IV. The Elements of Virtuous Atheism
16. Freedom within Necessity: Hume's "Clockwork Man"
17. Morality without Religion
V. Hume's Philosophy of Irreligion
18. The Myth of "Castration" and the Riddle's Solution
19. Was Hume an "Atheist"?
20. Hume's Lucretian Mission: Is It Self-Refuting?
Appendix: Cato's Speech at the Oracle of Ammon

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