Accepted paper:

David Hume on primitive fetishism and religious rituals

Authors:

Spyridon Tegos

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I’m exploring the understudied Humean source of fetishism in the history fo religions, Charles de Brosses and its impact on his philosophy of religion. Secondly I explore an associated Humean ambiguity regarding secular and religious rituals.

Paper long abstract:

David Hume on primitive fetishism and religious rituals The term fetishism is routinely associated with cultural anthropology and history of religion but it has been historically exploited by Comte, Marx and Freud in close connection to the concepts of identification and alienation in social context. It seems that it appears for the first time at 1760, following the publication of Du culte des dieux fetiches by Charles de Brosses. In a letter to President de Brosses (27 Dec 1763) Hume acknowledges the empirical confirmation that Charles De Brosses's book on fetishism has provided to his thesis exposed in the Natural History of Religion. In this paper first I'm addressing the intricacies of this understudied Humean source and its impact on his philosophy of religion. Secondly I explore an associated Humean ambiguity regarding rituals: Hume holds throughout NHR that ignorance and rudeness apply to both vulgar and savage mentality thereby creating a potential of atavistic therefore socially unsettling behaviour within the frame of modern manners. Yet in other writings(in the Essays as well as the History of England)HUme offers a reassessment of ritualized behaviour; the latter is considered as a crucial operator of civility both in the institutions of religion and modern politeness. This reading could lead to a reevalution of Hume's philosophy of religion in the genealogy of modernity regarding the relationship between secular and religious rites. By the same token it can possibly break grounds for novel speculation over the meanings of 'true religion' in Hume's thought.

panel P05
'True religion' and the anthropology of the Scottish Enlightenment