Hume’s Criticism of the Argument from Design

The Monist 54 (2):270-284 (1970)


This paper is concerned with the question: ‘Did Philo in Hume’s Dialogues succeed in undermining Cleanthes’ argument from design?’ Hume’s commentators have differed on their answers. Norman Kemp Smith speaks of Philo’s destructive criticism as “final and complete.” And Professor Bernard Williams, in a recent symposium devoted to Hume, says that “although the argument from Design lingered on through the nineteenth century, and even to the present time, Hume undermined it in a thoroughgoing and definitive manner.” Professor Alvin Plantinga, on the other hand, while conceding that Hume had succeeded in pointing out differences between the universe and things we know to be designed, nevertheless concludes that “there seems to be no reason to think that these differences ruin the argument.”

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