“Atheism” and Hume's Early Critics

Paul Russell

in The Riddle of Hume's Treatise

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195110333
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199872084 | DOI:
“Atheism” and Hume's Early Critics

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Although our own contemporaries are widely agreed that Hume's Treatise was largely unconcerned with problems and issues of religion (i.e. on the general assumption that he removed all such material from the Treatise) his early critics took a very different view. This way of reading Hume's Treatise is especially apparent in A Letter from a Gentleman to his friend at Edinburgh, a pamphlet composed by Hume in 1745 in reply to several accusations made against him when he applied for the chair of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University. Among the most important and fundamental “charges” made against Hume are those of “skepticism” and “atheism.” The nature and character of these charges and Hume's replies reveal the particular relevance and role of the (dogmatic) philosophy of Samuel Clarke in this context—as well as the philosophy of Clarke's prominent Scottish disciple Andrew Baxter.

Keywords: Letter from Gentleman; Andrew Baxter; argument a priori; atheism; Samuel Clarke; deism; freethinker; Lord Kames (Henry Home); minute philosopher; William Wishart

Chapter.  6414 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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