Millions of books are just a click away on and through our FREE NOOK reading apps. He says that most people are led to religion by "a consciousness of his imbecility and misery rather than from any reasoning." Skepticism has a long and varied history in Western philosophy. Course Hero is not sponsored or endorsed by any college or university. David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is one of the most famous works criticizing some of the arguments offered by philosophers and theologians to establish the existence and nature of God. Philo tells Cleanthes that he has mischaracterized his skeptical position: Philo does believe what his reason tells him to believe, but he proportions his belief to the evidence. Here Philo disagrees, noting that the philosopher Leibniz produced an argument against the claim that the world is overall bad. Philo sums up the case by asserting that our ideas are all based on experience and that we have no experience at all of divine attributes and operations. Course Hero, "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Study Guide," December 6, 2019, accessed November 26, 2020, Because Hume is an empiricist (i.e. Demea and Philo argue that appeals to emotion are the most effective means of persuading people toward religion because religions play on the shared opinion that humans have that life is characterized by misery and suffering. You'll get access to all of the Already a member? Course Hero. In the Dialogues, Hume's characters debate a number of arguments for the existence of God, and arguments whose proponents believe through which we may come to know the nature of God. Demea is amazed that Cleanthes can say this, given that many great thinkers and powerful people throughout history have complained of misery. The dialogue form, presumably, can both inculcate the “obvious” truth and explore the difficulties. Cleanthes, though, is not satisfied with this modest skeptical claim. Finally, ethos, which means "character" in Greek, is the form of persuasion that works by appealing to the characteristics of the speaker. Generally, the problem of evil is the statement that the existence of suffering in the world is not compatible with God being perfect. In Course Hero. Use up and down arrows to review and enter to select. "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Study Guide." Web. Philo does make this very comparison between the relative experiential evidence in the case of science and theology later in the book, but he does not make it here, and we can only wonder why. 26 Nov. 2020. Pamphilus then explains that he will write the debate between Cleanthes, Demea, and Philo just as he heard it. But we cannot know that this is true, because we could only justify believing in this law through experience or through reason. (2019, December 6). The conversation between Demea, Cleanthes, and Philo begins with a question concerning education: when is it best to begin teaching students theology? The persuasive work is done by the speaker highlighting their own admirable and authoritative qualities. Course Hero, "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Study Guide," December 6, 2019, accessed November 26, 2020, He adds that he also makes sure they know of the limitations, endless disagreements, and strange ideas that all those who dispute matters of science and philosophy are subject to. It is pure prejudice, he declares, that prevents them from allowing the same method of reasoning in theology. Philo responds by continually revising his skeptical position into more and more subtle forms. Course Hero. SparkNotes is brought to you by Barnes & Noble. Accessed November 26, 2020. To launch into his subtle skepticism regarding these scientific theories, though, would only needlessly complicate matters and draw attention away from the topic at hand—that is, the question of whether religious beliefs can be rationally justified. To give one of his more famous examples, no matter how many times we see the sun rise in the morning (presumably, many, many times) we never attain rational justification for believing that it will rise the following morning. December 6, 2019. Disbelief and suspension of judgment are distinguished from each other by philosophers. Anthony C. Thiselton, "A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion", CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Argument for the existence of God from design, Cosmological argument#Metaphysical argument for the existence of God,, CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 13 June 2020, at 03:35. They could allow their characters to attack various accepted arguments and positions, without themselves having to endorse or reject any specific religious view. Such topics debated include the argument from design—for which Hume uses a house—and whether there is more suffering or good in the world (argument from evil). While they say they don't know or believe anything, they still continue acting in commonsense ways. However, he points out that religious institutions actually seem to go back and forth in their opinion of skepticism: they embrace skepticism whenever reason seems to threaten their power, and they embrace reason when it becomes the only way to keep their influence.