The Dialogues begins with a discussion about the proper religious education of Pamphilus, a pupil of Cleanthes. In rejecting Cleanthes’ idea that our natural faculties of reason can provide the basis of religion, Philo, Demea, and Hume speak as one, laying out skeptical challenges. This calls for an analysis of skepticism, both rustic and urbane; an examination of Hume’s work in the Treatise and Enquiry shows him to be, like the urbane Pyrrhonist, accepting of common-life reason and experience but wary of abstruse philosophizing. In subsequent parts of the Dialogues, Cleanthes must put forward an empirically based theology. If he does so successfully, he wins; if he can make no progress in this regard, he loses.
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