Chapter

Atheism under Cover

Paul Russell

in The Riddle of Hume's Treatise

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195110333
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199872084 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195110333.003.0007
Atheism under Cover

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Both the epigrams that Hume uses on the title‐pages of the Treatise of Human Nature are very significant and reveal his freethinking and irreligious aims and intentions.. More specifically, the epigram from Tacitus that appears in Books I and II was used not only by Spinoza, but also by his followers in the Collins‐Toland circle to proclaim their bold defense of freethinking. At the same time, the Lucan epigram that appears in Book III also appears prominently in Collins's Freethinking and carries the message of Cato, a model of stoic virtue and the oracle of pantheism, freedom of thought, and anti‐superstition. Beyond this, these two epigrams are also intimately connected with Hume's Hobbist title and plan for his Treatise. In this way, Hume's use of epigrams on the title page of the Treatise is a notable and illuminating example of “esoteric” communication.

Keywords: Cato the Younger; Anthony Collins; epigrams; esoteric/exoteric; Lucan (Pharsalia); Pantheists; Tacitus; title‐pages; Benedict Spinoza; John Toland

Chapter.  5483 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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