The Riddle of Humes Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion

Paperback | November 5, 2010

byPaul Russell

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Winner of the Journal of the History of Philosophy Prize for the Best Book on the History of Philosophy, 2008Although it is widely recognized that David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) belongs among the greatest works of philosophy, there is little agreement about the correct way to interpret his fundamental intentions. It is an established orthodoxy among almost all commentators thatskepticism and naturalism are the two dominant themes in this work. The difficulty has been, however, that Hume's skeptical arguments and commitments appear to undermine and discredit his naturalistic ambition to contribute to "the science of man". This schism appears to leave his entire projectbroken-backed.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 arefundamental 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 puzzlesarising 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 theTreatise in an irreligious or anti-Chrisitan philosophical tradition that includes Hobbes, Spinoza and freethinking followers. Considered in these terms, Hume's Treatise constitutes the crowning achievement of the Radical Enlightenment.

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Winner of the Journal of the History of Philosophy Prize for the Best Book on the History of Philosophy, 2008Although it is widely recognized that David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) belongs among the greatest works of philosophy, there is little agreement about the correct way to interpret his fundamental intentions. It ...

Paul Russell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. He is also the author of Freedom and Moral Sentiment (OUP 1995) and editor of the forthcoming OUP volumes Thinking About Free Will and The Oxford Handbook of Hume.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:424 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:November 5, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199751528

ISBN - 13:9780199751525

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations of Hume's Writings Used in CitationsI. Riddles, Critics, and Monsters: Text and Context1. The Riddle2. "Atheism" and Hume's Early Critics3. Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists4. Newtonianism, Freethought, and Hume's Scottish Context5. The Monster of Atheism: Its Being and AttributesII. The Form and Face of Hume's System6. A Hobbist Plan7. Atheism under Cover: Esoteric Communication on Hume's Title PagesIII. The Nature of Hume's Universe8. Blind Men before a Fire: Empiricism and the Idea of Good9. 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 Necessity13. Skepticism, Deception, and the Material World14. Immateriality, Immortality, and the Human Soul15. The Practical PyrrhonistIV. The Elements of Virtuous Atheism16. Freedom within Necessity: Hume's "Clockwork Man"17. Morality without ReligionV. Hume's Philosophy of Irreligion18. The Myth of "Castration" and the Riddle's Solution19. Was Hume an "Atheist"?20. Hume's Lucretian Mission: Is It Self-Refuting?Appendix: Cato's Speech at the Oracle of AmmonNotesBibliographyIndex

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"A bold and novel approach the study as a whole has an exceptional merit." --J. D. McNabb, Eighteenth Century Fiction