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Assess Hume's reasons for rejecting miracles

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Introduction

Assess Hume's reasons for rejecting miracles (45) One of the main philosophers in the debate about miracles is David Hume. I will start this essay with a basic summary of Hume's argument. Hume's argument is not that miracles cannot happen, but that, given the amount of evidence that has established and confirmed a law of nature, there can never be sufficient evidence to prove that a law of nature has been violated. He believes that miracles have no rational background. Hume was an empiricist, in other words, he believed that all knowledge is based on evidence that we gain through our senses. He argues that if a miracle goes against a law of nature, then it represents a single piece of evidence that goes against all the rest. So, for example, if we let go of a heavy object, it falls to the ground. That observation, repeated many times, confirms our understanding of the law of gravity. ...read more.

Middle

Hume advances on this argument to say that reports of miracles generally come from ignorant and barbarous people. He states that humans love the fantastic. People love the idea of something unlikely happening since wonder and excitement are enjoyable emotions. This argument seems to be weak since he only deals with word of mouth miracles whereas today there is much more scientific research into miracles. For example, the miracles at Lourdes. There have been 68 carefully checked claims that Natural Law has been broken and the church has declared them miracles. Physical things have happened when all the evidence point to the fact that it cannot happen e.g. bone re-growth. The doctors involved are those whom Hume would have agreed with since they would have had a reputation to lose and nothing much to gain. Hume expands his argument to talk about religions. Since all religions claim miracles, miracles are not rational. All religions base the truth of those religions on miracle stories therefore all religions have equal claims to truth. ...read more.

Conclusion

Anthony Flew is of a similar perspective to Hume. He claims that although there is strong evidence for extraordinary events like those at Lourdes, it does not prove that they have been brought about by God. There is still much that we don't know about the human mind and it may be possible, that under the right conditions, out minds can bring about changes in our bodies. It seems difficult to fault Hume's argument if one is going to look at the evidence of miracles logically. If a miracle is a "violation of a law of nature" then Hume has good reason for not believing an account of any such event. However, as we have seen, what makes something 'religious' is often a matter of interpretation, rather than fact. In conclusion, I will repeat the point I made in the opening of this essay. Hume's argument is not that miracles cannot happen, but that, given the amount of evidence that has established and confirmed a law of nature, there can never be sufficient evidence to prove that a law of nature has been violated. Emma Ward 09/05/2007 Emma Ward 1 ...read more.

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