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HUME NAT RELI - Summary In Dialogues Concerning Natural...

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Summary In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Hume explores whether religious belief can be rational. Because Hume is an empiricist (i.e. someone who thinks that all knowledge comes through experience), he thinks that a belief is rational only if it is sufficiently supported by experiential evidence. So the question is really, is there enough evidence in the world to allow us to infer an infinitely good, wise, powerful, perfect God? Hume does not ask whether we can rationally prove that God exists, but rather whether we can rationally come to any conclusions about God's nature. He asserts that the first question is beyond doubt; the latter is initially undecided. Hume presents three characters, each of whom represent a different position on this issue, engaged in a dialogue together. Demea argues for the position of religious Orthodoxy, and insists that we cannot possibly come to know the nature of God through reason. He believes, in fact, that we cannot ever know the nature of God at all because God's nature is inherently beyond the capacity of human comprehension. Philo, the philosophical skeptic, agrees with Demea that God is incomprehensible and provides the most convincing arguments for this position. Cleanthes argues the position of empirical theism—the position that we can come to know about God by reasoning from the evidence afforded us by nature—against these two opponents. Cleanthes bases his belief in empirical theism on the argument from design . According to this argument, the complex order and beauty of our universe can only be explained by positing the existence of an intelligent designer, that is, God. The argument is supposed to work by way of analogy (an argument of this form is called an argument by analogy ): (1) The world resembles a finely tuned machine. (2) All machines we know of are created by intelligence (human intelligence). (3) Therefore, the world must also be caused by intelligence (divine intelligence). By looking at nature, in other words, we obtain overwhelming evidence that God's intelligence resembles human intelligence (though of course, in much more perfect form). The argument from design is supposed to be the best case that can be made for the claim that religious belief can be rational. By showing that the argument from design fails, Hume hopes to prove that religious belief cannot possibly be based on reason. Philo the skeptic delivers Hume's objections to the argument from design. In part II he attempts to demonstrate that the argument from design is not even an actual instance of the sort of argument it purports to be, and as such is faulty. The argument from design seems to be an argument by analogy, but it does not work even under this rubric. First, the analogy between machines and the universe is weak at best, and as such any reasoning based on this analogy must also be weak. Second, the universe and a machine are not strictly analogous phenomena because they are not independently existing entities, rather the universe is a whole and a machine is a part of it.
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