Discuss the philosophical problems related to purported evidence for miracles (28)


There are many philosophical problems relating to purported evidence for miracles and there are also many criticisms put forward by philosophers. The main criticiser of miracles is Hume. Hume put forward many criticisms which appear to discredit apparent miracles. However there are also criticisms which suggest that Hume’s problems with the evidence for miracles aren’t sufficient to reject the existence of miracles.

One of the most important criticisms of miracles put forward was from Hume. He said that “there is not to be found in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion.” He argues that no single man is reliable and trustworthy enough to be believed, and that no miracle has been witnessed by enough people to be believed or proven to be true. This is important because if his argument to be believed, then miracles don’t exist and have never occurred. However Hume didn’t actually specify how many men constituted a sufficient number, or how good sense, education and learning was to be measured and judged.

An equally important criticism is Hume’s criticism of testimonies, where he stated that “No testimony insufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.” He said that because each testimony of a miracle is different to another, they cancel each other out and so each makes the other testimonies unreliable. He said that “In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which the system was established.” Hume also said that it was “more probable that a person is lying than a law of nature had been broken” because the natural laws are based on a posteriori evidence

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However when Hume was writing, testimonies were passed by word of mouth but today, alleged miracles are heavily investigated by the Church and can be supported by scientific evidence. Vardy explains this as “Hume was writing at a time when the only support for miracle stories came from word of mouth reports. Today claimed miracles are sometimes supported by scientific evidence.” A famous example of this is Lourdes, where 68 miracle healings have been officially recognised by the Church. These healings break the natural laws and are therefore extremely important because most of the people healed were chronically ill or ...

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