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M. Andreas Weber. David Hume und Edward Gibbon, Religionssoziologie in der Aufklärung. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Anton Hain, 1990. Pp. xii + 164. This book on David Hume and Edward Gibbon is intended to be a contribution to the discussion ofthe origins ofa "sociology ofreligion" inthe eighteenth century. It seems tobe writtenmainlyforanaudience more interested in sociological than in philosophical questions. While large portions of the book are concerned with a discussion of Hume's "naturalism" and its consequences for his philosophy of religion (Weber, 1-80), little of genuine novelty is to be found in them. Weber does not break any new ground, but simply summarizes the results of more recent Hume scholarship. It is interesting, however, to see the key concepts of Hume's philosophy of religion in a sociological rather than a philosophical context, ifonlybecauseit shows againhowmodern a thinker Hume really was. The second part of the book (Weber, 80-151) concerns Hume's influence on Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Weberhas no difficulty in arguing that Gibbon's accountofthe role of religion in general and of the rise of Christianity in particular was deeply influenced by Hume's various writings on religion, and especially by his "OfMiracles," "OfSuperstition and Enthusiasm," and his Natural History ofReligion because Gibbon himself not only often alludes to Hume, butat times expUcitlyrefers hisreaders to the latter's works. Thus, he called attention to the Natural History ofReligion, for instance, as the "best commentary" on polytheism (Weber, 113). Weber can thus convincingly argue that many aspects of Gibbon's historical narrative and discussion presuppose and expand Humean ideas, and¦ that theseideas are notmerelyofmarginal importance, butare decisive for understanding Gibbon. Ifit needed showing that Gibbon was deeply influenced by Hume in his views on religion, then Weber's book is entirely successful. However, I am not sure that this needed further argument. Itis well known that, touse the words ofNicholas Phillipson, Hume had "a profound influence on historians like William Robertson, Edward Gibbon and Sir Walter Scott," and that especially his reflections on superstition and enthusiasm were "the starting point for nearly all subsequent secular thinkers about the history of religion" (Hume [London, 1989], 71). It might have been better, if Weber had spent more time and effort on the analysis and discussion of the significance of this Humean influence. Manfred Kuehn, Purdue University Volume XVII Number 1 89 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
p. 89
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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