David Hume's Discourse Concerning Natural Religion Essay

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Hume’s Discourse Concerning Natural Religion:
Argument by Design as Proof of God?

The enlightenment-age philosopher David Hume wrote Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which investigates the natural religious arguments of reasoning and experience on God’s existence. One argument brought up by three of Hume’s characters, Demea, Cleanthes, and Philo; is over the validity of the argument from design. Arguably, Hume is closest in his philosophical beliefs to the character Philo, a religious sceptic and arguer against design. It is Philo who reveals the unmendable gaps in the design argument against its main supporter, Cleanthes. However, Philo does not disprove God’s existence in his efforts to criticise the design argument. This is evident because Philo himself states his belief. By revealing the falsity of proving God’s existence through the argument from design, the reader of can conclude that the questions of God’s existence cannot be answered through human experience and reasoning.

In Part II of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume introduces the idea of argument from design through Cleanthes, who states,
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The world, Cleanthes states, is clearly made for us because God is benevolent. However, there is no reason to believe that the world was made to meet our needs, nor that God is benevolent. As stated by Philo, the animal has no control over its environment, therefore how can we know that it was created for us. Evidence of the world’s ability to meet our needs, such as the presence of food and water, can also be explained through the evidence that, in some places, it does not meet our needs. Furthermore, one could imagine the world to be even more perfect, but it is not able to do so. This question of imperfection also leads us to conclude that God does not possess the human attribute of benevolence due to the existence of
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