Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

1 Issue per year

Open Access
See all formats and pricing

Hume and Kantian Teleology

Ronald Mercer
  • Oakland City University
Published Online: 2015-01-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opth-2014-0009


This paper argues that Hume’s claim to have some belief in God is accurate because his own philosophy is held together by a teleological underpinning that leads to the idea of God. Previous work that has favorably connected Hume’s philosophy to Kant’s provides a framework to argue that Hume inadvertently admits a teleological a priori in understanding nature in the same way that Kant understands teleology as the “lawfulness of the contingent.” Having connected Hume and Kant through teleological aesthetics, this paper moves to show how this teleology underwrites several positive statements about God that Hume makes in the Dialogues.

Keywords: David Hume; Immanuel Kant; teleology; aesthetics; design; belief


  • Ayer, A. J. “Editor’s Introduction.” In Logical Positivism. New York: The Free Press, 1959.

  • Beck, L. W. “A Prussian Hume and a Scottish Kant.” In Essays on Kant and Hume. London: Yale University Press, 1978.

  • Boswell, James. “Death and David Hume.” In Boswell in Extremes, edited by Charles M. Weis and Frederick A. Pottle. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1970. http://digital.nls.uk/scotlandspages/timeline/17762.html (accessed October 21, 2012).

  • Butler, R. J. “Natural Belief and the Enigma of Hume.” Archiv fur Geschicte der Philosophie 42 (1960): 73-100.

  • Firstone, Chris and Stephen Palmquist, eds. Kant and the New Philosophy of Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

  • Gaskin, J. C. A. Hume’s Philosophy of Religion. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978.

  • Ginsborg, Hannah. “Kant on Aesthetic and Biological Purposiveness.” In Reclaiming the History of Ethics: Essays for John Rawls, edited by A. Reath, B. Herman, and C. Korsgaard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

  • Ginsborg, Hannah. “Reflective Judgment and Taste.” Noûs 24:1 (March, 1990): 63-78.

  • Gracyk, Theodore. “Hume and Kant: Summary and Comparison.” Minnesota State University Webpage. Last modified February 15, 2006. http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/phil%20of%20art/hume_and_kant.htm. (accessed October, 23, 2014).

  • Gracyk, Theodore. “Rethinking.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52:2 (Spring 1994): 169-182.

  • Guyer, Paul. Kant and the Claims of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979.

  • Guyer, Paul. Kant and the Experience of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

  • Guyer, Paul. “Systematicity, Taste, and Purpose.” In Knowledge, Reason, and Taste. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

  • Hume, David. A Letter to a Gentleman from his Friend in Edinburgh. Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection. EBSCO host (accessed August 3, 2011).

  • Hume, David. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, edited by Norman Kemp-Smith. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1947.

  • Hume, David. The Letters of David Hume. Vol. 1, edited by J. Y. T. Greig. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  • Hume, David. The Natural History of Religion, edited by H. E. Root. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1956.

  • Hume, David. “Of the Standard of Taste.” In Essays, Moral, Political, Literary, edited by Eugene Miller. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985.

  • Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Revised P. H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960.

  • Johansson, I. “Hume’s Scottish Kantianism.” Ruch Filozoficzny, 3 (2002): 421-453.

  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment, translated by Werner Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987.

  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Unified Edition, translated by Werner Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987.

  • Kant, Immanuel. Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, edited and translated by Gary Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Kant, Immanuel. “What does it mean to orient oneself in thinking?” In Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: And Other Writings, edited by Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

  • Mall, R. A. “Humes Prinzipien – und Kants Kategoriensystem.” Kant Studien (1971): 319-334.

  • Nuyen, A. T. “Hume on Taste and Reason.” Philosophy Papers XXV:1 (1996): 57-71.

  • Palmquist, Stephen. Kant’s Critical Religion. Brulington: Ashgate Publishing, 2000.

  • Palmquist, Stephen. “Kant’s Religious Argument for the Existence of God: The Ultimate Dependence of Human Destiny on Divine Assistance.” Faith and Philosophy 26:1 (January 2009): 3-22.

  • Penelhum, Terence. David Hume: An Introduction to His Philosophical System. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1992.

  • Penelhum, Terence. Hume. London: MacMillan, 1975.

  • Penelhum, Terence. “Hume’s Skepticism and the Dialogues.” In McGill Hume Studies, edited by Norton, Capaldi, and Robinson. San Diego: Austin Hill Press, 1979.

  • Penelhum, Terence. “Natural Belief and Religious Belief in Hume’s Philosophy.” The Philosophical Quarterly 33:131 (April, 1983): 166-181.

  • Russell, Paul. “Hume on Religion.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), edited by Edward N. Zalta.

  • Russel, Paul. The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/hume-religion/> (accessed October 18, 2014).

  • Strawson, Galen. The Secret Connection: Causation, Realism, and David Hume. Revised. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

  • Stroud, B. Hume. London: Routledge, 1977.

  • Wolff, R. P. “Hume’s Theory of Mental Activity.” In Hume, edited by V. C. Chappell. London: MacMillan, 1966.

  • Wood, Allen. “Rational Theology, Moral Faith, and Religion.” In The Cambridge Companion to Kant, edited by Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

  • Zangwill, Nick. “Hume, Taste, and Teleology.” In The Metaphysics of Beauty. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.

About the article

Received: 2014-08-19

Accepted: 2014-12-01

Published Online: 2015-01-27

Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opth-2014-0009. Export Citation

©2015 Ronald Mercer. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in