The philosophy of religion of David Hume (1711–1776) is a major, though often undisclosed, part of the intellectual heritage of secularist thought in English-speaking countries. His psychological theory of religious belief and his sceptical critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God present some of the most profound and classic challenges to Christian belief. In particular his psychological account of the origin and nature of religious belief as propensity of projection of entities (e.g., God/s) has been influential in the fields of philosophy of religion. This unit explores his major work on the origin of religious belief, The Natural History of Religion, and his major criticism of the arguments for the existence of God, found in The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. The unit will examine these, plus other lesser texts (e.g., On Miracles, On Superstition and Enthusiasm, and A Treatise of Human Nature) in order to analyse the different strands of Hume’s philosophy of religion, evaluating its coherence, presuppositions, strengths, and weaknesses.

Unit code: AP3141C (Approved)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 3

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Read the selected primary texts carefully in relation to their purpose and historical context, and articulate a comprehension of them.


Critically expound Hume’s theories, terminology and arguments studied in the unit.


Situate and critically interpret the material studied in relation to the wider framework of the Christian philosophical tradition.


Evaluate Hume’s theories, terminology and arguments studied in the unit.



Indicative Bibliography

  • Beauchamp, Tom L., ed. A Dissertation on the Passions: The Natural History of Religion: A Critical Edition. Oxford: Clarendon; 2007.
  • Buckle, Stephen. Hume's Enlightenment Tract: The Unity and Purpose of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001.
  • Earman, John. Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000.
  • Fogelin, Robert J. A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Gaskin, John C. A. Hume's Philosophy of Religion. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1988.
  • Herdt, Jennifer A. Religion and Faction in Hume's Moral Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Levine, Michael P. Hume and the Problem of Miracles: A Solution. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989.
  • Logan, Beryl. A Religion Without Talking: Religious Belief and Natural Belief in Hume’s Philosophy of Religion. New York: Peter Lang, 1993.
  • Pyle, Andrew. Humes's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: Reader's Guide. London: Continuum, 2006.
  • Tweyman, Stanley. Essays on the Philosophy of David Hume: Natural Religion, Natural Belief, and Ontology. Delmar: Caravan Books, 1996.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Variant 1 - 4500-word essay

One choice from three assessment variants will be nominated at the time of scheduling by the lecturer/unit coordinator prior to the start of the unit, published in the unit outline. Students may have topical choices within a given assessment variant, but are not able to make choices outside that set of assessments.

4500 100.0

Variant 2 - 2000-word essay

2000 40.0

Variant 2 - 2500-word essay

2500 60.0

Variant 3 - 2500-word essay

2500 60.0
Written Examination

Variant 3 - 2000-word examination

2000 40.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 23 Jul, 2020

Unit record last updated: 2020-07-23 17:46:43 +1000