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David Hume On The Existence Of Miracles

1866 words - 8 pages

In this paper I will look at David Hume’s (1711-1776) discussion from the An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X, Of Miracles regarding whether it is a reasonable assumption to believe in the existence of miracles. I will first discuss why the existence of miracles matters and how miracles relate to our understanding of the laws of nature. Secondly, I will look at how Hume argues that it is never reasonable to believe in miracles. I will then provide objections to this argument which I feel support the idea that belief is not only reasonable but a necessary condition for a faithful life.
So why does the existence of miracles have any meaning at all? Belief in miracles helps to bring a sense of the divine existence of God to those who believe in a material way. Miracles are a way for signs from God to be transferred to mankind, in a way that we are able to understand. These miracles or signs from God can help to show divine favour, and to support our moral beliefs and ideology, to let us know that we are on the path of righteousness for those who believe. But what then, constitutes a miracle? A miracle, according to Hume, is a violation of the laws of nature, something that cannot happen, but does. (Hume, 1777,E10.12) I believe that Hume believes that the the laws of nature, cannot ever be violated, for if one believes that this is possible, then the laws of nature are fallible and belief in the laws of nature which should be unalterable, would no longer apply. It is therefore, far more reasonable to believe that the laws of nature, which have proven themselves over and over again, are in fact to be believed and accepted over any possiblity for the existence of a miracle.
Hume contends that the existence of a true miracle has never been observed at any time or at any place. (Hume1777, E10.12) Hume further states that even when someone states or believes that they have been witness to a miracle, it is more likely that the person is either attempting to decieve, or has themselves been decieved. (Hume, 1777, E10.13) Hume is not necessarily stated that those who claim to see miracles are intentionally attempting to mislead others, but that what they believe to have seen as a miracle is more likely a misinterpretation of what they actually saw. “That no tesitimony is sufficient”,( (Hume, 1777, E10.13) is what Hume believes to be true, accept what is most likely or probable have occurred and that is what you should in fact believe. Under this assumption, therefore, it would never be reasonable to believe that a miracle, or violation of the laws of nature has actually occurred.
Hume’s argument for not believing in miracles can be laid out in the following way. First, a miracle is defined as a violation of the principles of nature. Second, nothing is more improbable than a violation of the laws of nature. Third, based on premises one and two, nothing is more improbable than a miracle having occurred. Fourth, it is more...

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