Evaluate Hume’s claim that miracles are the least likely of events. (35 marks)
Hume defines miracles as a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent. David Hume has 4 main criticisms that this essay will explore and look at the responses to these criticisms. For Hume, a miracle such as Jesus curing the paralytic is an example of an event which suggests that something happened which broke the laws of nature. It is important to understand what Hume means by the law of nature, as his ideas are slightly different from those of scientists today. Hume uses the law of nature to show how the universe works. He does not say that miracles don’t exist, they are just not reliable and we should not base our faith on them.
David Hume’s first criticism of miracles is that the uniform of testimony of all human experience of nature hold. Hume argues that the probability of miracles actually happening is to low that it is irrational and illogical to believe that miracles do occur. He is an empiricist, meaning that he emphasises experience and observations of the world as the way of learning new things. So, Hume is arguing inductively. He argues that when investigating any story of a miracle, evidence can be collected such as from human witnesses. Laws of nature appear to be fixed and unvarying. For example, the law of gravity is the same throughout the universe so far as we know. Miracles appear to violate the laws of nature. He concludes that it is more likely that the report of a miracle happening is incorrect than that the laws of nature have been violated. Hume’s Maxim is his conclusion that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish (David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). He reaches this conclusion due to the uniformity of testimony. Therefore, miracles are the least likely of events.
His second criticism of miracles is that those who experience miracles are barbarous and ignorant. They are uncivilised and uneducated in the eyes of Hume and that miracles were not reported as happening to educated people. He argued that if you look at the history of countries, their earliest stories are full of miracles, visions and so on,…