Research team


My research focuses on David Hume's account of the epistemic and moral authority of religion and society. In particular I analyse Hume's methodological shift between the Enquiry on Human Understanding and the Enquiry on the Principles of Morals. I clarify the notions of utility and superstition throughout his philosophical and historical work and I emphasise the importance of fictions in his theory of government. My results are challenging traditional interpretations of Hume as a sceptic, naturalist, and atheist.

Irreligion and common illusions in Hume's moral Enquiry and the Natural History of Religion. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2023


Against the traditional lines of interpretation highlighting the naturalistic and skeptical aspects of Hume's work, recent literature has offered an alternative focus for reading the Treatise on Human Nature and the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (EHU) as an attempt to show that religious beliefs are deprived of epistemic and moral authority. Less attention has been paid from this angle to Hume's position in his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (EPM), yet his irreligious attitude with respect to morality persists even after, as, at least in some interpretations, his Natural History of Religion (NHR) shows. The present project proposes to explore Hume's stance with respect to the role of irreligion in the EPM and NHR account of morality. The approach proposed here starts from the question left open in EHU 11.29. I defend the idea that in EPM Hume not only advocates a secular foundation of morality, but also gives a perspective to answer this open question in a positive way: religion can indeed support moral behavior under certain conditions. He could not reach this conclusion based on the normative epistemology developed in EHU. But from the natural-historical approach that he advocates in EPM and NHR, Hume develops a set of socio-anthropological concepts, thereby shifting the focus of the role played by psychological mechanisms in Treatise. If one reads EPM and NHR in this way, the irreligious attitude of Hume can receive a milder interpretation.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project