The philosophy of religion of David Hume (1711-1776) is a major, though often undisclosed part of the intellectual heritage of contemporary “New Atheist” thinkers like Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens. 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 is 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: AP9141C

Points: 24.0

Unit Level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit Discipline: Philosophy

Delivery Mode: Face to Face

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning Outcomes


Demonstrate an ability to read the selected primary texts carefully in relation to their purpose and context, and subject their implications to rigorous assessment


Explain how Hume’s arguments and positions for a given topic are subtly modified by his rhetorical positioning and style


Critically expound and evaluate Hume’s theories, terminology and arguments studied in the course


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


Develop a topic of research in a critical, rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner, in accord with the methodologies and conventions of advanced research in early modern philosophy




Type Description Wordcount Weight (%)

Option 1: 6000 word essay 90% End of semester 1000 word skeleton argument 10% Week 13

OR Option 2

7000 100.0

Option 2: 4000 word essay 60% End of semester 1000 word skeleton argument 10% Week 13 2000 word essay 30% End of week 12

OR Option 1

7000 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2015

Unit Record last updated: 2019-10-03 13:59:29 +1000