Hume’s Treatise and the Clarke-Collins Controversy

Hume Studies 21 (1):95-115 (1995)
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The philosophy of Samuel Clarke is of central importance to Hume’s Treatise. Hume’s overall attitude to Clarke’s philosophy may be characterized as one of systematic scepticism. The general significance of this is that it sheds considerable light on Hume’s fundamental “atheistic” or anti-Christian intentions in the Treatise. These are all claims that I have argued for elsewhere.’ In this paper I am concerned to focus on a narrower aspect of this relationship between the philosophies of Clarke and Hume. Specifically, I will consider Hume’s views on the subjects of materialism and necessity in relation to Clarke’s enormously influential debate with Anthony Collins on these topics. I begin by describing the nature and context of this controversy; I then examine how Hume‘s positions on questions of materialism and necessity stand in relation to the positions and arguments taken up by Clarke and Collins; and finally I explain the deeper significance of these specific issues for Hume’s wider “atheistic” or anti-Christian objectives in the Treatise. Hume’s views on the closely related subjects of materialism and necessity, I maintain, constitute core elements of his “atheistic” project in the Treatise, and they manifest his basic antipathy to the theistic metaphysics of the Christian religion in general,and to the Newtonian cosmology of Clarke in particular
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