Chapter

Hume's Lucretian Mission

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/9780195110333.003.0020
Hume's Lucretian Mission

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Whatever the merits of the irreligious interpretation of the Treatise, it may be argued that there remain significant puzzles and problems relating to the coherence of Hume's aim to discredit and dislodge the role of religion in human life (i.e. his “Lucretian mission”) when we try to accommodate developments and additions that appear in his later writings. More specifically, it may be argued that Hume's own observations about the origins and roots of religion in human nature, primarily as presented in his Natural History of Religion, show that his Lucretian mission is neither wise nor achievable. If this general line of criticism is correct, then Hume's Lucretian mission is both theoretically self‐refuting and practically self‐defeating. Moreover, considered in this light, Hume's project in the Treatise is fundamentally flawed as judged by his own claims and hypotheses concerning religion. This chapter argues that in respect of all these charges Hume is not guilty of any internal inconsistency.

Keywords: atheism; enthusiasm; justice; Lucretius; Natural History of Religion; philosophy (role of); religion (origins and causes); secularism; superstition; utopianism (irreligious)

Chapter.  6357 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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