Hume and the Art of Theological Lying

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 18 (2):193-211 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper critically examines David Berman's theological lying interpretation of Hume and identifies two types of theological lying: the denial of atheism strategy and the pious Christian strategy. It is argued that neither reading successfully establishes an atheist interpretation of Hume. Moreover, circumstantial evidence shows that Hume's position was different from that of the atheists of his time. Attributions theological lying to Hume, therefore, are unwarranted and should be rejected, even if we grant that this literary technique was used in the early-modern era. Analysing other non-theistic readings of Hume is beyond the scope of this paper. However, given that Berman presents one of most elaborated atheist reinterpretations of Hume's affirmative theistic passages, the failure of Berman's analysis shows that rejecting these passages should not be the default interpretive approach, and it is reasonable to attribute to Hume a weak, indeterminate theism.

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Peter Hartl
Hungarian Academy of Sciences

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