Hume on Miracles
In 1737, Hume produced a manuscript of somehow lengthy and daring work entitled “ A treaties of Human Nature “ which was published in three volumes between (1739-1740).His writings were largely ostracized by a small number of people who read it . Recognizing that his philosophical work would never receive a fair hearing, Hume shifted to writing letters and so he devoted himself to enhancing his literary style and writing clear and literal essays .Having established his literary reputation, Hume returns to writing philosophical writing in a more elegant essay form. As I try to examine his empirical approach to the natural world which bases one understands on the use of our senses. In order to explain Hume’s critique regarding the belief in miracles, we must first comprehend the conceptual meaning of a miracle. According to the Webster Dictionary, miracle is defined as a paranormal, mystic event observed as to define an action. As a model, Christ worked many supernatural acts that exposed his spirituality by notable accomplishment or event, an unpredicted piece of luck. Hence, people’s perception of a miracle differs, according to each one’s explanation of past experiences. These different explanations vary relatively between each person according to the dissimilar faith in which people believes in. This faith is founded on inner events such as what we are taught or how we are raised, and outer events, such as what we encounter, hear or see in our daily life. As a rationalist, Hume felt that sense data alone can allow us to have a deeper understanding of reality if we start to examine the nature of the mind and the fundamental process of human thought. Taking in Hume’s perception of a miracle, he classifies a miracle as an event that violates the laws of nature, an event which is untypical and abnormal to most of man folk. Contrariwise, nature laws reveal discontinuity through years; they may change anytime according to the past uniform regularities they have been. Many different religion claims to show miracles in support of their one true religion. What traditional Christians believe is that miracles are a reflection of the virtuousness of their beleifs Being a skeptic of miracles, Hume states that it might be a possible way for a miracle to occur. Nevertheless he claims that there can never be a proof or appropriate evidence to understand reasonably the occurrence of miracles. Therefore he justified the irrationality of miracles by stating that miracles can occur but they could never be proven. Hume proclaims, "We may observe in human nature a principle which, if strictly examined, will be found to diminish extremely the assurance, which we might, from human testimony, have, in any kind of prodigy (Hume, 393). Then also noticeably attacks the testimony of those who report miracles. Due to the astonishing appearance that a miracle may look like, a testimony may not be completely precise; it might involve certain emotions that lead the witness to have faith in the occurred miracle deprived of analyzing the event. Consequently, Hume does admit the possibility of miracles but definitely studies them closely, and with examination. Hume enlarges this idea by affirming the following: "a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible". Because a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, the proof against it is as complete as any can be from experience. Why must all men die; why must lead fall; why must fire consume wood and be extinguished by water? .The answer to that is because this is the law of nature. For example, if someone told me that he saw a dead cat restored to life or a dead man talking, whether this person is deceiving or whether he is deceived. Both are miracles. If his falsehood would be more miraculous than the event he...
References: Levine, Michael, “Miracles,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . [This was the previous entry on miracles in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy — sees the version history.]
Millican, Peter, 2003, “Hume, Miracles, and Probabilities: Meeting Earman 's Challenge,” manuscript available online
Miracles, by David Corner, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Bibliography on Miracles (in PDF), by James Arlandson
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