[SydPhil] Dejan Simkovic

Karola Stotz karola.stotz at gmail.com
Tue Aug 28 13:13:20 AEST 2018

‘Is (mono)theism an option for a Humean?’

*Dejan Simkovic*

When: Tuesday Sept 4, 1-2pm
Where: Moot Court

Hume is one of the great advocates of scepticism, and his sceptical
arguments, together with his critique of the accepted views of the time,
have challenged our epistemic standpoint in various spheres of life,
including morality and religion. This negative aspect of Hume’s work was in
the eyes of the intellectual public of Hume’s time a clear indication of
Hume’s subversive and destructive intentions. As a result, Hume was, and is
generally still considered to be an enemy of morality and religion. With
the progress of Hume scholarship, however, the positive aspects of Hume’s
work have started to be recognised. While Hume was undoubtedly a sceptic,
and vigorously criticized the dominant views of his time, he also intended
to advance, what he called, the “science of man” and to anchor all other
sciences, including “Natural Religion” and “Morals”, upon this foundation.
Because of this effort, scholars have begun to diverge from the
traditional, negative reading of Hume’s work albeit significantly more so
with respect to Hume’s ethics than his approach to religion. We neither
deny the force of the negative aspect of Hume’s ethics nor treat Hume as an
enemy of morality. Despite the progress in our understanding of Hume’s
arguments on religion, and even though Hume’s opus contains not only a
critique of religion but also a variety of positive claims, scholars still
perceive Hume’s work as damaging to religion.

In this paper, I wish to join the effort of those who aim at departing from
this negative view of Hume’s approach to religion. In the pursuit of this
aim I focus on the Natural History of Religion to show that a careful
reading of some long-neglected sections of that book, specifically sections
9 through 12, and section 14, reveals an unrecognized aspect of Hume’s
approach to religion: namely, that Hume attacked neither religion in
general nor monotheism per se in that book but a specific form of
monotheism, a version that is the product of corruption of what Hume treats
in NHR as the best available rational articulation of theism. What I am
particularly keen to stress is that Hume hereby also establishes the
distinction between what I will call the genuine monotheism, a tolerant and
sociable form of monotheism that is useful to society because it has the
capacity to promote reason and moral virtue, and a corrupted version of
monotheism, which is a threat to society because it leads to, among other
things, dogmatism, ignorance, intolerance and moral depravity.
Correspondingly, Hume introduces a distinction between two types of
monotheists: the intellectually and morally virtuous monotheist, and the
opposite, the intellectually vicious and morally corrupt monotheist. NHR
thus at the very least suggests that not all of Hume’s arguments on
religion threaten to expel religion, or monotheism specifically, from
social life.

Please contact Karola (karola.stotz at mq.edu.au) for questions or if you like
to give a talk yourself.

Karola Stotz
Senior Lecturer, TWCF Fellow
Philosophy Department
Macquarie University
karola.stotz at mq.edu.au

[image: Macquarie University] <http://mq.edu.au/>

Honorary Associate
Unit for History and Philosophy of Science
University of Sydney
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