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Hume Studies

Volume 39, Issue 1, April 2013

Samuel Clark
Pages 61-76

Hume’s Uses of Dialogue

What does David Hume do with the dialogue form in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion? I pursue this question in the context of a partial taxonomy of uses for dialogue in philosophy in general, distinguishing uses out of playfulness, for self-concealment, to tame opponents, for self-effacement, for causal operation, for self-discovery, and for dramatizing a political ideal. I argue for Hume’s use of the last two and investigate the expressions of selfhood and politics which these uses reveal in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: for Hume, the self is multiple, and sociable pleasure in company is more important than winning arguments or gaining knowledge. This reading of the Dialogues reveals Hume as aiming to transform our individual and collective self-understanding and action and proposes a more political engagement with his thought generally.

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