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    "One of the Most Influential Works in the
    Philosophy of Religion and the Most Artful Instance of Philosophical Dialogue since the Dialogues of Plato"

    David Hume. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. The Second Edition. London: [s.n.], 1779. Second edition (published the same year as the first). Octavo (8.1875 x 5 inches; 209 x 127 mm.). 264 pages (including half-title and title). Signatures: [pi]2 A-Q8 R2.

    Contemporary quarter calf over marbled paper-covered boards, neatly rebacked to style. Spine ruled and lettered in gilt in compartments with four very slightly raised gilt-decorated bands; edges sprinkled red (top edge darkened); endpapers renewed. Boards rubbed, with some areas of surface loss, especially edges; boards exposed at corners. Over-opened between leaves A7 and A8 (pages 17/18 and 19/20). Slight browning; scattered light to moderate foxing, heavier at beginning and end; a few small stains. A few tiny marginal holes. Overall, a very good and generally quite clean copy. Ink signature on front free endpaper: "Meissner / Nov. 1940."
    ESTC T85283. James Fieser, A Bibliography of Hume's Writings and Early Responses (2003), 21 (pages 49- 50). T. E. Jessop, A Bibliography of David Hume (1936), page 41.

    More Information:

    "Before his death in 1776, [David Hume, 1711-1776] arranged for the posthumous publication of his most controversial work, the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion...Hume's greatest achievement in the philosophy of religion is the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, which is generally regarded as one of the most important and influential contributions to this area of philosophy. While all Hume's books provoked controversy, the Dialogues were thought to be so inflammatory that his friends persuaded him to withhold them from publication until after his death...The Dialogues are a sustained and penetrating critical examination of a prominent argument from analogy for the existence and nature of God, the argument from design" (William Edward Morris, and Charlotte R. Brown, "David Hume," in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at


    "David Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) is one of the most influential works in the philosophy of religion and the most artful instance of philosophical dialogue since the dialogues of Plato. Some consider it a successful criticism of rational theology, some find it a failure, others regard it as a defense of some form of natural religion and yet others emphasize its influence on the development of fideism, religious belief that disclaims rational justification. The great eighteenth-century historian, Edward Gibbon, said that of all Hume's philosophical works it is 'the most profound, the most ingenious, and the best written.' All readers, regardless of their final assessments, can appreciate its penetrating analyses as well as its entertaining wit and ironic humor...The work presents a fictional conversation among three friends-Cleanthes, Philo, and Demea-that is overheard and later narrated by Pamphilus, Cleanthes' pupil, to his friend Hermippus. Although the names of the characters come from antiquity, the temporal setting is an eighteenth-century one, and the main characters represent philosophical or religious types. They all profess, for different reasons, that the existence of God is evident; but Philo, a skeptic, and Demea, an orthodox theist, urge that the nature of God is incomprehensible, while Cleanthes, an empirical theist, dismisses their skepticism as excessive. He proposes an argument based on the systematic order in nature-commonly known as the argument from design-to establish both the existence of God and his possession of human-like intelligence" (Introduction to the 2007 Cambridge University Press edition of Dialogues concerning Natural Religion and Other Writings, edited by Dorothy Coleman, pages xi-xii).


    The first edition ([2], 152 pages) had a "comparatively small circulation," and largely followed Hume's spelling and punctuation; the second edition had a larger circulation than the first, and incorporated alterations, making it less close to Hume's spelling and punctuation (Fieser).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2016
    6th Wednesday
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