Can you help me identify the critisms by Philo and Demea in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first thing that Philo and Demea do in part two is agree that there is a supernatural supreme deity (though of undefinable characteristics). They further agree that since experience is humans' route to knowledge and understanding, humans cannot possibly know the nature or attributes of a supreme deity because humans have only natural experience and do not have supernatural experience. Two major criticisms follow the bullet summary of their points of agreement.

  1. There is a supernatural supreme deity.
  2. Humans know through experience.
  3. Humans have only experience of the natural world.
  4. Humans have no experience of the supernatural world.
  5. Therefore humans cannot know the attributes, characteristics or qualities of that deity.

Philo then criticizes Cleanthes' argument that the natural world exemplifies a creation that was backed by intent and that is analogous to (i.e., be used as an analogy to explain) creation by humans of objects of any kind. Philo emphasizes the argument that we know by experience. He asserts that since we have not experienced the creation of a world, then therefore other actions, other processes, like attraction or growth, might be the cause of the creation of the world instead of divine intent.

Demea criticizes Cleanthes' argument that the human mind can be analogous to the divine mind. Demea asserts that if this were true, it would have to be stated that the divine mind experienced all the confusion, uncertainty, fallibility and limitations that the human mind experiences. Thus, if the analogy could be proven valid, it would be true that, by definition, the divine mind was not divine but merely weakly human thus therefore incapable of supernatural creation such as Cleanthes asserts.

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