HPS Colloquium: David Hume as Natural Theology Slayer: 1947 or 1747?


Location: 201 O'Shag

Join us as Dr. Hamlin presents his recent research!  We meet every Tuesday before Fall Break at 4 PM for coffee, snacks, and a chance to catch up before the presentation begins.

David Hume as Natural Theology Slayer: 1947 or 1747?

To philosophers and theologians, David Hume is usually seen as the vanquisher of natural theology, particularly that form known as design arguments.  That view, founded chiefly in readings of Hume's essay on "Providence and the Future State," and his posthumous Dialogues on Natural Religion has only prevailed, however, since Norman Kemp Smith's 1947 treatment, and rarely are contemporary treatments precise as to what is being refuted, where, and how.  Following several philosophers and theologians who have recently revisited Hume's treatment of religion -- e.g., Livingston, Herdt, Yoder, and Willis, and the literary scholar William Lad Sessions' recent careful but acontextual reading of the Dialogues, my approach here will be to look more closely both at the multiple strands of Anglican natural theology in the 1740s and 1750s, the chief period of composition of Hume's religious writings, and at the legacy of religious controversy in the region of SE Scotland where Hume grew up.   Hume's concern, I shall argue, is less with natural theology per se than with the place of religious epistemology in public life. 

A founding member of the Reilly Center, Dr. Christopher Hamlin is an historian of science, technology and medicine broadly concerned with the application of expertise to matters of public policy. Current projects include an exploration of the natural theological foundations of sensibilities on climate and environment, the history and philosophy of the forensic sciences, and concepts of disease endemicity.