Hume on Miracles

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  • Created by: Vez97
  • Created on: 21-02-16 16:12


David Hume - A Scottish philosopher (1711 - 1776).

  • He was an empiricist, advocating the use of the senses to gain a posteriori knowledge.
  • He was a sceptic, as he argued that we cannot reason accurately beyond what we see and hear, as this would require us to make assumptions.
  • He had an interventionist view of miracles, i.e. they are the breaking of the laws of nature by God.  However, even though he argued miracles were a possibility, he was unwilling to accept that you could ever collect convincing evidence for them.

"A wise man proportions his belief according to the evidence"- Hume.


In his book 'Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding', Hume hoped to "silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and free us from their impertinent solicitations."

Part 1: The argument from induction (THEORETICAL) - 

  • Hume argued that the laws of nature are formed from countless observations.  These experiences allow us to form conclusions and make predictions about what will happen in similar circumstances in the future.  
  • E.g. we see that people and animals need oxygen to survive.  The more instances of this the more probable is the conclusion that all people and animals need oxygen to survive.
  • Hume argued that it is rational to believe what is highly probable based on experience and irrational to believe the opposite, e.g. miracles.  Laws of nature, for Hume, are probable, but the breaking of them is not.
  • Hume also argued that you could only accept the evidence for a miracle if the falsehood of that evidence was more miraculous than the miracle itself.  E.g. Joe says that Alice was levitating outside his window.  Hume would only accept this as a miracle if it was more miraculous that she wasn't levitating.

"No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless...its falsehood would be more miraculous." - Hume.


  • Hume manages to define miracles out of existence.  A miracle is supposed


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