Attenuated Deism and Hume’s Propensity to Believe
Abstract. In this paper, I argue that a weak, attenuated belief in a deity is a natural belief for Hume, that is, a belief provided naturally rather than by reason. The main opposition to this reading comes from the fact that such belief is not universal, as is the case with other types of Humean natural belief. I therefore first engage the standard criteria for natural belief, showing that they are flawed in requiring universal instantiation of natural beliefs. Instead, I appeal to Hume’s ethics to show that it is the propensity to believe rather than the belief itself that must be universal. Once this is realized, I show how a stripped down belief in a creator deity fulfills this weaker criterion, and how such an interpretation of Hume fits well with a holistic reading of his Dialogues.
Keywords: Hume, Natural Belief, Belief, Religion, Dialogues, Deism, Attenuated Deism