Piety without Metaphysics: The Moral Pedagogy of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Urbaniana University Journal 73 (3):73-99 (2020)
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Urbaniana University Journal 73.3 (2020): 73-99. A close reading of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion reveals that it is not what it appears. Rather than a work of natural theology, meant to show something about arguments concerning the existence and nature of God, the Dialogues turn out to embody a moral pedagogy exemplifying and attempting to instill a conception of piety and religion as virtues. This paper defends this interpretation by reviewing three alternative, but ultimately inadequate, interpretations of the text, and then compares Hume’s moral pedagogy with that of Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae to highlight the ambition, and the limitation,of Hume’s attempt to characterize piety without metaphysics.

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Joshua P. Hochschild
Mount St. Mary's University


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