Religion and the Perversion of Philosophy in Hume's Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals

In Jacqueline Taylor (ed.), Reading Hume on the Principles of Morals. Oxford, UK: pp. 238-254 (2020)
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Abstract

I examine Hume’s claim in the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals that the theistic form of religion tends to distort philosophical thought about the nature of morality. I argue that we can see this thesis as a local application of Hume’s wider claim, intimated in various other works, that theistic religion tends to deform philosophy more generally. Understanding Hume’s account of the general tendency of theistic religion to subjugate and deform philosophy helps us set the moral case in its proper context. At the same time, the Enquiry’s account of the distortion of moral theorizing stands as Hume’s most detailed example of the kind of threat that theism poses to philosophy, and therefore helps to clarify Hume’s analysis of that more general threat.

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Thomas Holden
University of California at Santa Barbara

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