Hume has shown miracles do not exist

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“Hume has shown miracles do not exist” Discuss

David Hume is an empiricist and a sceptic; he believed that our knowledge of the world comes from the observations made by our senses. He also believed that we cannot reason accurately beyond what we see and hear as this requires us to make assumptions. Hume suggests that miracles are impossible. The laws of nature that we experience are uniform and constant; we assume that these laws will not be changed in the future and that they were constant in the past. To understand Hume’s criticism of miracles it is necessary to consider his ideas on induction.

Hume states that we develop cause and effect relationships based on our experiences of the world. This leads us to make predictions about what will happen in similar cases in the future. So, for example, you will predict that your kettle will come to the boil at 100 degrees, just as it has always done. The more experiences we have of ‘normal events’ seems to make miracles less likely, yet there is no way of absolutely disproving them. Hume therefore suggests that the only evidence available to us are accounts written by others. What is more probable – that a miracle occurred of that the accounts are mistaken? Hume suggests that we ought only to believe a miracle story if it would be more incredible that all witnesses were mistaken than if the event were true; “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracles unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the facts which it endeavours to establish”. Hume doesn’t believe in chance or in supernatural intervention. Hence, he asks for us to go with the evidence and consider which state of affairs is more probable, a miracle or a more ordinary explanation. Hume’s argument from induction asks us to rely on logic

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Hume continues to argue against the existence of miracles in his practical arguments. He gives four practical arguments regardless of whether miracles are theoretically possible, Hume tries to persuade us that, practically speaking, they just don’t or cannot happen.

His first argument is that miracles don’t generally have many sane and/or educated witnesses, and so they can’t be justified. His second argument is psychological. We have a natural interest in things that are unusual or surprising. This tendency towards things of surprise and wonder is exploited by religious people. Hume suggests that some religious people know that the ...

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