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Priya Modi L6H

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Priya Modi L6H a) Identify one philosopher and examine his/ her understanding of the term 'miracle' (6 marks) b) Examine the arguments which can be used to discredit belief in miracle. In what respects do you consider belief in miracles to be strong in spite of these criticisms. A miracle is an event that cannot be explained by natural laws alone. That is to say that one does not normally see it in our experience of nature. A miracle usually has a religious significance. It is usually an event which is unusual and unexpected. For many miracles are the direct sign that God is active in the world. An example of a miracle to some may be a sudden cure from cancer. The notion of miracles is open to many interpretations so to define it is very important. In this essay we will be looking at David Hume's definition of a miracle and examine his understanding of the term 'miracle'. Hume's definition of a miracle is "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent". This is the most common definition used today and means that a miracle is brought about when some invisible agent affects the working of the universe. When examining Hume's definition the most important part of it is that it contradicts Gods quality of being omnipresent and omniscient. ...read more.


The fact that Hume is an empiricist means that he believes that the laws of nature are formulated on uniform, public and past experience this is important as it weakens his understanding of 'miracles' as his definition is based Newton's understanding of Natural laws which are fairly outdated. An argument that has been used to discredit the belief in miracles is David Hume's critiques of miracles. Hume does not argue that miracles are impossible, but that it would be impossible for us every to prove that one had happened. In Hume's essay 'On Miracles' he attacks whether we should doubt testimonies. Hume initially talks about the law of nature and how they are based on past experiences. He states that it is more probable for a miracle not to have occur than it to actually happen, as one exception is not enough to convince us that the laws of nature have been broken. Hume continues to attack the evidence for miracles, human testimonies, "No testimony be of such kind, that its false hood would be more miraculous than the fact, which it endeavours to establish." His first important critique on testimonies is that he argues that there has never been a miracle with enough witnesses to put miracles beyond suspicions, "For first, there is not to be found. In all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such in questioned good sense, education and learning as so to secure against all delusion in themselves." ...read more.


He also argues that probability is not proof when Hume states that it is more probable that miracles do not occur. Swinburne states miracles to be strong in spite of Hume's criticisms. He argues that we should believe people's testimonies and should have no reason to doubt them. The principle of credulity maintains that it is a principle of "rationality that if it seems to a person that X is present, then probably X is present." He also uses the Principle of Testimony which maintains that the experiences of others are probably as they reported them and people would not lie. In conclusion, despite of these criticisms I think the belief in miracles are still very strong. As science is developing everyday one could assume that the laws of nature do stretch and change over period of time. If we look at the principle of Ockham's razor he states that a simple and expected cause is the likely explanation for a certain event and that it is not justifiable to invent a more complex one, even if it is a possible alternative this therefore shows that despite Hume's criticisms the belief in miracles can still be strong. Claims for miracles are either fraudulent or can be explained by new insights which cause us to update our pool of knowledge; otherwise they depend on the existence of God of whom we have no true knowledge. True knowledge is the bane of religious superstition, and such superstitions are what Hume intends to show as baseless and not worthy of our attention. ...read more.

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