The Nature of the Dispute between Philo and Cleanthes in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

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Stanley Tweyman

Abstract

In my paper, I examine the source of the disagreement between Philo and Cleanthes in David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, beginning in Part 2, in regard to the analogical Argument from Design - the argument which purports to prove, through the principle ‘like effects prove like causes’, that the similarities between the design of the world and the design of machines, in terms of means to ends relations and a coherence of parts, countenance the conclusion that the cause of the design of the world resembles the cause of the design of machines. I show that Cleanthes and Philo have different interpretations regarding the proper application of the principle ‘like effects prove like causes’, the central principle employed in Cleanthes’ argument. Hume achieves a reconciliation between the disputants in Part 12, which he holds that it is reasonable to accept, although the reconciliation is held to take place, not as we might expect, between Cleanthes and Philo (the principal speakers in this work), but between the theist and the atheist, and (in a footnote in Part 12) between the dogmatists and the sceptics. I explain this change; and show that in Part 12, as in the earlier Parts of the Dialogues, Philo remains consistent with his claim to Demea in Part 2, that he argues with Cleanthes “in his own way”.

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Tweyman, S. (2020). The Nature of the Dispute between Philo and Cleanthes in David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Humanities Bulletin, 3(1), 8-16. Retrieved from https://www.journals.lapub.co.uk/index.php/HB/article/view/1520
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