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The relation between literary form and philosophical argument in Hume's "dialogues concerning natural religion"

Bell, Martin (2001) The relation between literary form and philosophical argument in Hume's "dialogues concerning natural religion". Hume studies, 27 (2). pp. 227-246. ISSN 0319-7336

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Abstract

Philosophers from Plato onwards have always attached importance to the possibilities that differing literary forms give for the expression of philosophical ideas. No one can read Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Wittgenstein, for example, without paying attention to how the literary form helps to constitute the philosophical content. Recently there has been renewed interest in the debates that took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on the significance and appropriateness of literary forms for philosophical argument. In the last few years alone there have been major studies of the styles and genres of writing used by Bayle, Locke, Shaftesbury, Berkeley, and Hume.’ This paper is concerned with questions about the relation between the philosophical arguments and the literary form that arise from attempts to read David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.2 This debate has been exten~ivea,n~d I cannot attempt here to discuss all the questions it has raised. I hope only to propose certain issues that seem to me important and so to contribute to the continuation of the debate.

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