David Hume: “The Natural History of Religion”



In this video, I discuss David Hume’s essay “The Natural History of Religion,” originally published as one of the Four Dissertations in the work by that name. I start out by indicating some of Hume’s key ideas, assumptions, and methods in the work. Then, I discuss Hume’s views on the origins and nature of polytheism and monotheism, whether these arise through philosophical speculation about the universe (he does not think so) or through human passions, ignorance about the causes of things, and the gradual workings of social processes. I also examine Hume’s comparison of polytheism to monotheism in terms of the categories he uses: tolerance, courage, rationality, morality.

Ultimately, I argue, Hume is using this work to make a rather subtle attack on the religion prevalent in his time, pursuing a skeptical strategy (similar to that on his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) of pitting opposed positions against each other, in order to be free of any of them. His seeming endorsements of a “pure,” philosophical monotheism are not representative of his true position

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Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

5 thoughts on “David Hume: “The Natural History of Religion”

  • December 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm
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    Thanks for another great and very helpful vid. Wishing you a happy Christmas.

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  • December 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm
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    One of your very best exposés in my opinion. For anyone interested in a modern account of the origins of monotheism, different from Hume or many others (like Freud), I would suggest the works of Jewish scholars Yehezkel.Kaufman, and Nahum Sarna – which are extensively used in universities such as Oxford, Harvard and particularly Yale (where they are the textbooks we were required to purchase and read).

    Hume, known in his day for his history of England, was it seems largely reacting against the prevailing notions at the time and reflecting the thinking of the “enlightenment`.

    I don`t know if you agree or not, but I thought you did a really good job at going through the text. So thanks!  

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  • December 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm
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    new video — not a video in a course sequence this time, but a stand-alone — which I shot after yet another reread of Hume's "Natural History of Religion", prepping for the Theology Matters show later today

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