Arguments of Hume's views of miracles

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Kieth Ward

  • Hume: "A miracle is a violation of a law of nature by a God or a spirit."
      > Ward: "...totally unworkable definition."


  • Laws of nature didn't exist in people's minds before Isaac Newton.
  • Ancient world + Bible authors had evidence to support things happening our of the ordinary.
  • Deterministic and probabalistic laws:
    D: If you do X, Y will happen.
    P: If I do X, Y will probably happen.


  • Attacks Hume for setting up miracles to fail.
      > Felt by definition, miracles can't happen.
  • 'De dictor' = miracles
  • 'De re' = reality
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Ockham's Razor

  • Do not multiply entities beyond necessity.


  • The simplest explanation is usually the best.
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C. S. Lewis

  • Hume originally says we should not assume there is a link between cause and effect.
      > Experience.
  • However, contradicts himself:
      > In laws of nature there must be a link between cause and effect.
  • Double standard.
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Anthony Flew

  • Agreed with Hume's point of view of miracles but admitted it had significant weaknesses.
  • Evidence for miracles = indirect.
      > Why should we believe small evidence for miracles over large evidence against.
  • If you witness a miracle and search for a reason, but can't find any other explantion, then why shouldn't you just claim it as a miracle?
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Richard Swinburne

  • Accepts that Hume incorporates criteria generally used for the assessment of testimony.
  • However, finds Hume to be far too imprecise.
  • Suggests two principles in support of miracles:
      > Principle of Credulity - what one seems to perceive is probably the case.
      > Principle of Testimony - it is reasonable to believe that the experiences of others are probably as reported.
  • "Most alleged miracles do not give rise to conflicts."
  • Evidence types:
    1. Memories.
    2. Testimonies.
    3. Physical traces.
    4. Natural law.
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Maurice Wiles

  • Deist view.
  • Rejects the idea that God directly intervenes in the world.
      > Therefore, rejects the existence of miracles.
  • "The world as a whole [is] a single act of God."
  • Thefore, He would not undermine the natural laws He created by intervening in the world.
  • An omnibenevolent God would not perform trivial miracles.
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Philosophical reasons to believe in miracles.

  • If miracles violate laws of nature, depends what laws are.
      > Laws of nature = probabalistic not deterministic  > theoretically possible for them to be broken.
        > Inductive.
  • Swinburne's suggestions of good indirect evidence:
      > Memory
      > Testimony (principles of credulity and testimony)
      > Physical traces
  • Anti-realist view.
      > Miracles are just how you perceive things from your form of life (redefinition of what miracle means).
  • Direct evidence.
      > Flew.
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This was really helpful, thankyou- had never even heard of Anthony Flew! Maybe a card on Hume and Aquinas would be helpful too? **

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