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Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and The Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

David Hume , J. C. A. Gaskin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Dec 2008 Oxford World's Classics
David Hume is the greatest and also one of the most provocative philosophers to have written in the English language. No philosopher is more important for his careful, critical, and deeply perceptive examination of the grounds for belief in divine powers and for his sceptical accounts of the causes and consequences of religious belief, expressed most powerfully in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and The Natural History of Religion. The Dialogues ask if belief in God can be inferred from the nature of the universe or whether it is even consistent with what we know about the universe. The Natural History of Religion investigates the origins of belief, and follows its development from harmless polytheism to dogmatic monotheism. Together they constitute the most formidable attack upon the rationality of religious belief ever mounted by a philosopher. This edition also includes Section XI of The Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and a letter concerning the Dialogues, as well as particularly helpful critical apparatus and abstracts of the main texts, enabling the reader to locate or relocate key topics. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

Frequently Bought Together

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and The Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics) + An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (Oxford World's Classics) + A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (11 Dec 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538324
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does God exist? 6 Jan 2006
David Hume, a philosopher of the period often classified as British Empiricism, is the intellectual associate of philosophers John Locke and George Berkeley. Born in Edinburgh in 1711, he attended the University of Edinburgh but did not graduate. He went to France during his 20s, and spent time there working on what would become his most famous work, 'An Enquiry into Human Understanding', first published under the title 'Treatise of Human Nature'. However, Hume was a prolific writer, and dealt with many areas of philosophy, including politics and ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. He wrote in the area of history as well, and had a politic career as British ambassador to France and a post as a minister in the government for a few years. His final work, 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion', was published posthumously in 1779, although work had begun on it as early as the 1750s.
Hume was very concerned about rationality. Hume was never publicly and explicitly an atheist, but his rational mind, concerned about sensory and intelligible evidence, led him to question and doubt most major systems of religion, including the more general philosophical sense of religion and proofs of the existence of God. The primary arguments in his 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' deal with the Argument from Design, and the Cosmological Argument. There is an assumed distinction here between natural religion and revealed religion, an especially important distinction in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophical structure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfeigned sentiments of an agnostic 29 Jun 2011
Oxford World Classics' is a good edition of Hume's writings on religion. As well as the Dialogues, it contains the brief autobiography My Own Life, a chapter of the first Enquiry (Of a Particular Providence) and the Natural History of Religion, which argues that the first religions were polytheistic.

In the Dialogues, which is the central text, there are clearly expressed treatments of three principal arguments for God's existence. The argument from design gets the most space, but the cosmological and ontological arguments, in versions similar to those of Isaac Newton's friend Samuel Clark, are also scrutinised with a sharp and sceptical eye. I read the Dialogues as a philosophy student some thirty years ago and it confirmed my agnosticism. Contrary to some earlier reviewers, I have since worked my way back to a slightly more positive appreciation of the arguments. Hume's view of necessity is based on his theory of impressions and ideas, but it seems to me intuitively absurd to say we can 'conceive' the non-existence of a necessary being, so I have some time for the ontological argument of St Anselm's writings and indeed Hegel's Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God. Hume's view of causality is also quite narrow, but these discussions are for another place.

As well as divine existence, which he reckons probable, the Dialogues end with a passage of 'unfeigned sentiments' attributed to the sceptical character Philo.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive work on the argument from design. 25 July 2004
An absolute must-have book for anyone studying the philosophy of religion. Hume's destruction of the argument from design is complete. He does not claim such a victory in the text as it would have been unwise in the climate of the age but there is simply nowhere left to go for the 'rational theist' after this work.
As an interesting aside Hume then goes on to show the errors of the ontological argument.
The dialogue form works well although it feels a little forced compared to Plato's early dialogues. The contnet though is the best in the field.
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