Hume and miracles

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  • David Hume and Miracles
    • Hume was a Scottish philosopher who described his opinions of miracles in his essay 'Of Miracles' in 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding'
    • He stated that believing in miracles was irrational because it was highly improbable and lacked evidence
      • He defined a miracle as: "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition (will) of Deity"
    • He believed that natural laws had been proven as constant and unchanging, therefore, they are very improbable and unlikely to be broken
      • He said that it will always be more likely that the witness to a miracle is mistaken or lying
    • Hume's argument is a priori argument because he establishes the unlikelihood of miracles on the basis of definitions of miracles and natural laws
      • The improbability of a miracle does not mean that it could never happen, Hume has not proved that they do not happen, only that it is improbable
    • Hume gave 4 a posteriori (from experience) reasons for why there is inadequate evidence of miracles:
      • 1. Miracles are never witnessed by a sufficient number of people and are not witnessed by people with "unanswered good sense, education and learning"
      • 2. Miracles are often witnessed by religious believers who are unreliable witnesses because their faith leads them to naturally want to see miracles
      • 3. Miracles are witnessed in "ignorant and barbarous nations"
      • 4. Different religions all claim that miracles prove the 'truth' of their beliefs, but all religions have different understandings
    • Hume defines miracles as an event which breaks the laws of nature (although he believes it's near to impossible and irrational to believe)


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