Chapter 2 Science and the Humanities in Hume’s Philosophy of Religion

In: Idealist Alternatives to Materialist Philosophies of Science
Author: Philip MacEwen

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In Chapter 2, “Science and the Humanities in Hume’s Philosophy of Religion,” Philip MacEwen contends that, unlike our “two-culture” view of science and the humanities, David Hume had a “one-culture” view, treating all human learning under the rubric of “the science of man” which he divided into seven disciplines: mathematics, natural philosophy, natural religion, logic, morals, criticism, and politics. One can still detect a dividing line between the first three disciplines and the last four. According to Hume, the first three are in some measure dependent on the science of man, since they are mediated to a certain extent by human thought and judged accordingly, while the last four are entirely dependent on it. Thus, it is possible to read our two- culture view of science and the humanities into Hume’s one-culture view of the sciences. Applying this insight to Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, MacEwen argues that we can makes sense of two competing strands of thought in it (Philo’s skepticism regarding natural religion and his heartfelt confession that no one has a deeper sense of [natural] religion than he.) and resolve the competition between them. If we put these two strands together, we get Philo’s one-culture verdict at the end of the Dialogues which is remarkable for both its rationality and sensitivity: the causes of the order of the universe probably have some remote analogy to human intelligence, to which the most inquisitive, contemplative, and religious person must admit that the supporting evidence exceeds the contrary.