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The Riddle of Hume's TreatiseSkepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion$
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Paul Russell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195110333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195110333.001.0001

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Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists

Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists

(p.25) 3 Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists
The Riddle of Hume's Treatise

Paul Russell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Hume's early critics strongly associated the skepticism of the Treatise with “atheistic” or anti‐Christian intentions. Moreover, they took Clarke's philosophy to be a particularly obvious and prominent target of Hume's battery of skeptical arguments, and present Hume as a freethinking, “minute philosopher” in the school of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Collins (i.e. Clarke's “atheistic” opponents). Scholars have generally dismissed these reactions and responses to the Treatise as coming from bigoted and narrow‐minded critics who lacked either the ability or the will to understand Hume's philosophy. The truth is, however, that these early reactions to the Treatise are entirely consistent with a proper understanding of the wider debate between the “religious philosophers” and “speculative atheists,” which was the dominant philosophical debate throughout the century that preceded the publication of the Treatise. This chapter documents and describes the major figures and contours of this crucial debate.

Keywords:   Boyle Lectures, Cambridge Platonism, Samuel Clarke, Anthony Collins, deism, Thomas Hobbes, Newtonianism (theology), Pantheists, Radical Enlightenment, John Toland

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