Assess Humes reasons for rejecting miracles

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Assess Hume’s reasons for rejecting miracles

Hume defined miracles as a “violation of the laws of nature” and consequently rejected their occurrence as both improbable and impractical. This view has been supported by modern scientists and philosophers such as Atkins, Dawkins and Wiles to a certain extent. However Aquinas, Tillich and Holland and Swinburne to a certain extent reject Hume’s reasons, instead arguing that miracles have a divine cause and that Hume’s arguments are weak. This essay will argue that Hume’s reasons for rejecting miracles are not valid and in doing so consider his two main arguments; lack of probability and Hume’s practical argument.

Hume’s first reason for rejecting miracles was a lack of probability. He argued that evidence from people’s experience of observing the world showed the laws of nature to be fixed and unvarying. However to suggest a miracle occurred was to say that the laws of nature had been violated, hence his definition of miracles being a “violation of the laws of nature.”  Miracles were reported has having occurred by eyewitnesses, as is stated in the Bible in the case of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. However for Hume it was far more likely that the eyewitnesses were mistaken in what they witnessed, than for Jesus to have actually raised Lazarus from the dead and in doing so violated fixed laws of nature. A violation of the laws of nature was therefore an improbable occurrence.

Wiles’ agrees with Hume’s point that it is more likely the eyewitness was wrong than a miracle occurred, in doing so raising the problem of evil. It was illogical to suggest God was omnipotent and good if he showed clear favouritism through creating miracles whilst at the same time many people were suffering. It would be more likely that a witness made a mistake or did not understand what they saw than an ominbenevolant and omnipotent God showed clear signs of bias and favouritism through miracles therefore Hume’s first argument is valid.

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Swinburne supports Hume’s view that laws of nature are defined by the experiences of people observing the world, as he believes that people’s observations are the basis for all natural laws. Additionally Hume’s argument that miracles are improbable is supported by Dawkin’s view that it would be highly unlikely that someone could simply learn to walk again after being paralysed as a result of a miracle, as this would constitute a violation of the laws of nature. This also supports the idea that Hume’s argument is valid.

However he rejects Hume’s concept of the laws of nature ...

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