Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Demea's Cosmological Argument

Although it was written in 1776, Hume did not actually publish Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion in his lifetime; it was published three years after his death in 1779. It has been suggested that Hume, a well-known atheist, suspected that the work would not be well received amongst his peers, and especially the Church. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is a somewhat controversial work, as it challenges the very existence of God although it was published during a time of great religious faith.

Interestingly, Hume writes his philosophy in the form of a dialogue to give a well-balanced argument, while highlighting the fact that he is fully aware of opinions other than his own. This gives the impression that he is almost challenging his own work. Hume uses three characters in his dialogue: Demea, who strongly defends the cosmological argument, Cleanthes, a defender of the Teleological argument, and Philo, who appears to be the least religious of the three. Indeed, when challenging the Cosmological Argument presented by Demea, Cleanthes states, 'I shall not leave it to Philo, said Cleanthes, (though I know that the starting objections are his chief delight) to point out the weakness of this metaphysical reasoning,'...

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