2. Miracles: Hume (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 17-06-17 21:30
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  • 2. Miracles: Hume (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)
    • Miracles are the violation of law by a supernatural being
    • Miracles have not occurred previously, but it is still reasonable to say they occur
      • However, they are the least likely of events
    • Christianity is based upon miracles, so it is necessary to believe in them to believe
    • "mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity (accuracy)"
    • All religious belief is contrary to human experience and logic (against a priori knowledge)
    • Questions the validity of miracles
    • There is insufficient testimony
      • Those who testify miracles may be deceived, deluded or lying.
        • Cannot trust this is not the case
      • Miracles are improbable events
        • So they need witnesses of higher credulity than probable events
      • In order to confirm a miracle, there must be a significant number of witnesses with sound education
      • For a miracle to be confirmed, it would have to be a greater miracle that the event did not take place
      • The most impressive testimony will at most counterbalance the unlikelihood of the event, not confirm that it actually happened
      • Dd not specify how many witnesses and of what level of education
    • People that claim miracles have a tendency to believe
      • Humans are naturally drawn to the miraculous and love being 'dazzled' by the mysterious, so can form unreasonable beliefs on experiences which cannot be trusted
      • Ideas should be rejected are instead perpetuated
      • Is it sufficient to deny all miracles of any credibility due to this?
      • Skepticism has been wrong
        • e.g. European scientists initially denied the existence of the duck-billed platypus despite the evidence
    • Miracles arise from ignorant and barbarous nations
      • Stories of miracles from 'primitive and barbarous' nations that do not understand what is really (scientifically) happening
      • e.g. miracle of dancing sun at Fatima, Portugal, may have been a result of staring at the sun too long, causing retinal distortion
      • However, this is an arrogant and in many ways unfounded argument, as claims about miracles come from all cultures and not isolated to "ignorant" ones
      • Highly intellectual people exist within the Religion, e.g. former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is currently a Cambridge professor
    • Miracles are contrary facts
      • Claims of miracles come from many different sources
      • Many religious beliefs are based on miracles
      • People of different faiths all claim that their religious experience is evidence that their beliefs system is true
      • Each claim counters those made by other religions
      • Not all miracles can be right as they cancel each other out, so they must all be wrong
      • Are miracles the basis of religions?
        • James would argue not, that deeper feelings and personal views are central, theology is secondary.
    • If laws of nature are not fixed, then it is possible for God to carry out miracles

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