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Examine the way in which one philosopher understands the term miracle

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Introduction

Examine the way in which one philosopher understands the term miracle (6 marks) Thomas Aquinas understood miracles to be 'those things done by divine power apart from the order usually followed in things'. So in other words those things that God did, that nature cannot do, this is the most traditional approach to defining a miracle. It is effectively a breach of a law of nature, contradicting our regular experience of how the world works. Aquinas gave the example of a reversal in the course of the sun; this is the first type of miracle put forward by Aquinas. Apart from this conventional approach to defining a miracle, Aquinas put forward two other additional types of miracles; Acts that God did, that nature could do but not in the same order. For instance, recovering from a terminal illness, it's not logically impossible for this type of miracle to happen; they are just not usually expected. Nature can bring about a natural remission or recovery, but we would not expect this to happen (would you expect someone to recover from the latter stages of cancer overnight?) ...read more.

Middle

people with a good, non-bias reputation, however, many regard Hume's criteria for testimony to be too harsh, if applied consistently to past historical events, everything in history may be false testimony! He also forgets to mention what would be sufficient testimony? Hume also says the laws of nature are so firmly established that it would take an almost infallible claim to confirm such testimony, though, this is self defeating; Hume's own definition claims that miracles are the transgression of the laws of nature. He goes onto say in say in his book (Enquiry concerning human understanding (1978) that different religious claims cancel one another out, since all claims cannot be true we should assume that none are, for instance if a miracle in Islam discredits Christianity as a true religion, then equally any claim of a Christian miracle will likewise discredit Islam making them both null and void, undermining the evidence. This argument that miracles have a self-cancelling nature has again been questioned; there seems little reason to think different religious accounts cancel each other out. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, others have rejected this argument saying that God has reasons for acting the way he does; people might say God allowed Auschwitz so we could learn from it, for our own benefit. Pointless miracles also to an extent discredit beliefs in miracles. As Swinburne claimed, without an apparent aim or purpose it is hard to credit 'miraculous' happenings with being an act of God. He used the example of a feather '... land here rather then there...' this seems to have no deeper religious significance, and so Swinburne went onto say a miracle must have an ultimate purpose and we should be able to see religious significance. Hence in conclusion, the belief in miracles is ultimately up to the believer, miracles are always going to be incoherent for atheists as for them God does not exist so they will automatically look to a different premise. At the end of the day nothing about miracles is incoherent if you believe that God exists and has all the powers described in classical theism. On occasion it is perfectly reasonably that he might break the epistemic distance, so despite arguments against miracles, belief in miracles is nevertheless strong. ?? ?? ?? ?? Mohsin Ali Raja 09/05/2007 RE/ Philosophy. ...read more.

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