Summer 2003

SOCS 658
David Hume on Religion, Miracles, and the Existence of God

Schliesser,Eric S.

06/23/2003 - 08/05/2003
Monday & Wednesday 06:30 PM - 09:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

David Hume, an 18th century Scottish historian and philosopher, published widely and to much controversy on many topics. His methods of inquiry, inspired by the then-recent successes of Newtonian science, defined a new course of philosophical analysis, and his mitigated skepticism remains vibrant and challenging to the student of philosophy. Throughout his life, he studied and wrote about the role of religion in human life, critically examining such questions as: Does God exist? Do miracles happen? Are our souls Immortal? How does religion manifest itself in politics? What are the psychological conditions that enable religious practices? What does reflection on the history of religion teach us? Is there a meaning of Life without God? Hume argues that except for the truths of common life no conclusions can be asserted, and on the topic of religion Hume is extremely cautious about stating any conclusions that follow from his arguments. Nevertheless, his principled arguments against attempts to prove the existence miracles and an after-life and his attempt to understand religion as a social-psychological phenomenon remain controversial and continue to invite refutation. We will study Hume?s arguments, their premises, and debate how, if, and what conclusions can be drawn from them.

We will study some of Hume?s most famous writings: The Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; The Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals; Essays, Moral, Literary, and Political; The Natural History of Religion; and The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. No previous knowledge of philosophy is required. Class discussion will be encouraged. Students are required to write three papers (two of 3 pages, the final of 6 pages) and three postings (minimum of 150 words) to the online class-discussion list.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

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