Religious Studies


The Hamann–Hume Connection

M. Redmonda1

a1 Rutgers – The State University of New jersey, U.S.A.

It is well known that the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher and sceptic David Hume was a severe critic of religious belief, but what may not be so familiar, and has been brought to our attention in recent years by Isaiah Berlin, is that some religious believers have found in Hume's sceptical arguments a source of nurture for their religious faith. In particular, Berlin singles out the example of Hume's contemporary, Johann Georg Hamann (17388), a devout but unconventional believer as well as one of the leaders of the German Counter-Enlightenment. Hamann's primary claim to fame, however, rests upon his influence upon the Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard. Although Kierkegaard never met Hamann, he was familiar with his writings, and calls Hamann ‘his only teacher.’ Kierkegaard's vast influence on modern Christianity, especially Protestantism, is, of course, a commonplace. What, though, is often overlooked, and Berlin calls our attention to, is that this man who influenced Kierkegaard was himself deeply influenced by Hume. The student of religion, as well as the philosopher, cannot help but be struck by this historical connection between Hume and believers such as Johann Hamann and thus, ultimately, between David Hume and modern Protestantism.