I was from the beginning scandalised I must own with this resemblance
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David Hume wrote much about the subject of religion, much of it negative. In this paper we shall attempt to follow Hume's arguments against Deism as Someone knowable from the wake He allegedly makes as He passes. This kind of Deism he lays to rest. Then, digging deeper, we shall try our hand at a critique of his critique of religion, of resurrecting a natural belief in God. Finally, if there's anything Hume would like to say as a final rejoinder, we shall let him have his last word and call the matter closed.
To allege the occurrence of order in creation, purpose in its constituent parts and in its constituted whole, regularity in the meter of its rhythm and syncopations, and mindful structure in the design and construction of Nature is by far the most widely used and generally accepted ground for launching from the world belief in an intelligent and omnipotent designer god. One does not have to read for very long to find some modern intellectual involved in the analysis of some part of Nature come to the "Aha!" that there's a power at work imposing order, design, structure and purpose in creation. Modern religious piety salivates at the prospect of converting scientists and will take them any way it can. From Plato to Planck the problematic lion of religion must be rendered safe and tame. Religion must be reasonable, for, after all, we are reasonable "men." Einstein writes that the scientist's "religious feeling takes the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural!
law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
We have been struck dumb, however; we can no longer be incautious with such temptations to believe, with such sirens sounding for sensible, systematic sureness. The Design Argument has been mortally wounded by David Hume. The god arrived at by arguments on the one-way street of effect to the cause is dead; we should never have allowed him to live. In Section XI of the Enquiry, and throughout the Dialogues Hume subjects the Argument from Design to searching and searing philosophical analysis, to the point in his mind that it is forever dead, and to the point in our minds that we wonder why the world has not yet received the obituary. Why did it not die from the exposure to which Hume subjected it? Who resurrected this false phoenix? Has the Design Argument been forever altered by Hume? Can it render service in post-Hume discussions? These are the questions we should confront.
David Hume's philosophy of religion is fatal to the natural revelation of Deism. His arguments the camp of unbelief have appropriated. It is an argument against any inductive proof for God's existence. What Hume seeks to show is the failure of this argument to establish the type of deity that belief in a particular providence or divine action must require one to assert. This he sets out first and in preliminary fashion in Section XI of the Enquiry and with more plethoric attention in the Dialogues. In both books he employs the dialogue form to embody his attacks.
The argument of the former is mistitled. Fourteen of the seventeen pages have nothing to do with immortality or "particular providence." Hume's argument here is from the particular effect to the existence of a cause sufficient for its production. Causes are to be known from effects alone; to ascribe to it any superfluous qualities goes beyond the bounds of strict logical reasoning. The imagination must be philosophically bridled. When ten ounces are raised in a balance one can surely surmise a counterbalance exceeding ten ounces, but one can hardly offer any justification for the counterbalance to weigh 100 ounces. Transferred to philosophical theology, it is impos-sible to derive legitimately from a natural theology any relevancy in conclusions arrived at over and above what can be independently and directly supported by empirical study of the universe.
Such innocuous-sounding, even camouflaged assertions by Hume were in actuality a D-Day invasion on the Normandy Beach of the Deists. The first salvo is a
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Arguments for the existence of God, David Hume, Economists, Empiricists, Teleological argument, Deism, Existence of God, God, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Of Miracles
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