Toward a Humean True Religion

Genuine Theism, Moderate Hope, and Practical Morality

By (author) Andre C. Willis

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 October 2016

Length of book:

264 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271064888

David Hume is traditionally seen as a devastating critic of religion. He is widely read as an infidel, a critic of the Christian faith, and an attacker of popular forms of worship. His reputation as irreligious is well forged among his readers, and his argument against miracles sits at the heart of the narrative overview of his work that perennially indoctrinates thousands of first-year philosophy students. In Toward a Humean True Religion, Andre Willis succeeds in complicating Hume’s split approach to religion, showing that Hume was not, in fact, dogmatically against religion in all times and places. Hume occupied a “watershed moment,” Willis contends, when old ideas of religion were being replaced by the modern idea of religion as a set of epistemically true but speculative claims. Thus, Willis repositions the relative weight of Hume’s antireligious sentiment, giving significance to the role of both historical and discursive forces instead of simply relying on Hume’s personal animus as its driving force. Willis muses about what a Humean “true religion” might look like and suggests that we think of this as a third way between the classical and modern notions of religion. He argues that the cumulative achievements of Hume’s mild philosophic theism, the aim of his moral rationalism, and the conclusion of his project on the passions provide the best content for this “true religion.”

“Andre Willis's book is an original treatment and superb analysis of Hume’s conception of ‘true religion.’ Willis’s meticulous scholarship ranges across the magisterial corpus of the most profound and powerful philosopher in the English language. His synthetic perspective situates Hume’s conception of ‘true religion’ within the context of Hume’s quest for a science of human nature. His use of major figures such as Locke, Hutchinson, Descartes, Hobbes, Tindal, Toland, Grotius, and Lord Herbert to situate Hume’s mitigated skepticism, attenuated naturalism, and classical humanism is quite persuasive. Willis's argument is highly nuanced, critically fair, and textually grounded. The writing is crystal clear, balanced, humble, assured, and honest. It is the kind of book that would make Hume smile from the grave, as if to say, ‘Someone has got the gist of what I was about! And there is no greater satisfaction than this!’”

—Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary