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251 BUTLER AND HUME There is not much direct evidence of connections between Hume's thought and that of Joseph Butler. We do know that Hume wanted to interest Butler in the Treatise of Human Nature at the time of its first publication, and took out material about miracles in order to assist in this. Although this attempt came to nothing, we also know that in 1742 Butler was recommending Hume's Essays Moral and Political "everywhere." There is no reason to doubt that Hume's wish to gain Butler's approbation was based in part on genuine respect; and he includes Butler's name in the Introduction to the Treatise when listing those students of human nature whose work has preceded his own. The late Professor Mossner argued that Cleanthes in the Dialogues is 4 intended to represent Butler, and it would certainly be unreasonable to doubt that Butler was much in his mind as that work was composed over the years. In this paper, I have no startling discoveries to offer about connections between them, and any argument based on texts has to contend with the fact that Hume is master of non-citation. But if one assumes that Hume thought it important to include answers to Butler in his own theories, even as a secondary objective, one can, I think, see a little more deeply into the thought of both philosophers. I shall try to do this by making some comparisons between their ethical views, and then by pursuing some suggestions these comparisons generate about the way Hume tries to respond to Butler in the realm of natural theology. To begin, some dates are in order. Butler's Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel was first published in 1726, and went into a second 252 edition in 1729. It will almost certainly have been the source of Hume's reference to Butler in the Introduction to the Treatise. Butler's Analogy of Religion appeared in 1736, and went into a second edition in the same year. Hume returned to England from France in 1737, and published the first two Books of the Treatise in 1739. Book III appeared in 1740. While it is possible that the excisions from the Treatise were due to an actual study of the Analogy (where there is considerable discussion of miracles), Butler's ecclesiastical status would have been enough reason for Hume to suppose his own reflections (at least as we know them now) to be unattractive to him. On the other hand, Hume would certainly have been able to absorb the Analogy by the time the first Enquiry appeared in 1748. In addition to this, by the time the ethical portions of the Treatise came out in 1740, Hume would have read the Dissertation "Of the Nature of Virtue," which was an appendix to the Analogy, as well as the Rolls Sermons, and would therefore have had all Butler's ethical teachings before him. Hume is the greatest and most systematic philosopher to have written in English, and because he is systematic in a way that Butler was not, he responds to a wide range of influences of which many are only now coming to be recognised. But there are two reasons for thinking it worthwhile to examine, and to speculate about, the effects Butler's work may have had on him. The first is that in English at least, Hume is our best, and Butler is our second best, philosopher of religion. The other is that in English, Butler is our best, and Hume is our second best, moral philosopher. 253 Most of us are inclined to contrast Hume and Butler in moral theory, not to assimilate them. According to the received wisdom, Butler teaches that doing one's duty is natural, whereas Hume says it is primarily artificial. Butler emphasises the supremacy of conscience in human nature, whereas Hume's account of obligation seems to make the motive of duty derivative and secondary. Butler's ethics seems to be primarily an ethic of actions, whereas Hume's is a theory of the virtues. In general, CD. Broad and others have won us over to the opinion that Butler...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 251-276
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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