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154. 1 HUME AND THE GOD-HYPOTHESIS Interpretation of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion has always been contentious. While some think it obvious that Philo is Hume's spokesman, others think it is Cleanthes. Whether or not Philo is Hume's spokesman, he certainly produces the better argument. Nonetheless , that argument is flawed by an assumption which I doubt Hume ever questioned. I want to consider that assumption , but want to make it clear that it is not my intention to defend Cleanthes' position. The second thing I want to do in this paper, which I have not seen done elsewhere, is to connect Hume's arguments in the Dialogues with his anthropological account of religiosity. Perhaps the least contentious thing about the Dialogues is that Demea's a priori position is not taken too seriously, nor is much time spent on the first cause argument , so important from Aristotle to Leibniz. What is given serious attention is what might be described as the 'God-hypothesis', which is more or less the Argument from Design. Philo rejects the argument for reasons we shall review below, but makes a concession. The concession is basically that it is intelligible to contend that the cause or causes of order in the world bear some resemblance to human intelligence. The catch, which is the point driven home against Cleanthes, is that, while intelligible, the idea is utterly pointless. Philo says: If the whole of Natural Theology ... resolves itself into one simple .. .proposition , That_ the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence : If this proposition be not capable of extension. . .If it affords no inference that affects human life... if the analogy ... can be carried no farther. . . (203) then it is without point. Hume is willing to let the theist have his vague analogy, for it serves no point. In fact, the theist cannot 155. win, for to the extent that the God-hypothesis might have explanatory power, it approaches the status of an empirical hypothesis, and as such loses theological import. The Dialogues should be devastating, yet seem to miss the mark. Suppose we look a bit more closely at what is going on. The position Cleanthes elaborates is an hypothesis to the effect that the world exhibits order and that that order is best explained by the postulation of an orderer. Cleanthes' moves are a bit more complicated, as we shall see in a moment , but this is the essential point. The hypothesis is conceived by Hume as either competing with or completing science. In the Enquiry we read that The religious hypothesis .. .must be considered only as a particular method of accounting for the visible phenomena of the universe : but no .just reasoner will ever presume to infer from it any single fact, and alter or add to the phenomena, in any single particular. (237) The passage is virtually a summary of Philo's thesis. There can be no move from an inferred cause to anything further in terms of either facts or properties. Cleanthes may be grudgingly granted his causal supposition, but he is not allowed to use it. Again: And what can you say more, allowing all your suppositions and reasonings? ... (0)ur conduct and deportment in life is still the same... You persist in imagining , that, if we grant that divine existence, .. .you may safely infer consequences from it... You seem not to remember, that all your reasonings ... can only be drawn from effects to causes... (238) The crucial failure is that All the philosophy .. .and all the religion... will never be able to carry us beyond the usual cause of experience , or give us measures of conduct and behaviour different from those which are furnished by reflections on common life. (244) God, as putative cause simply makes no difference, so long as we conform to the standards of rational thought. 156. It is important to be clear that what is being rejected is God as "a fruitful rival to scientific explanatory notions, such as gravity". The rejection of God as explanatory principle turns on the illegitimacy of Cleanthes' moves. As Peter Jones puts it, Cleanthes makes two inferences...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 154-163
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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