David Hume's Anti Miracle Belief Essay

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The problem of miracles is an ancient one that has persisted for most of human history, but that has been addressed with some depth only in the last few centuries. The great empiricist philosopher David Hume was one of the first to present an analysis of miracles that tried to explain why they are created (by human beings themselves, in Hume’s opinion) and why people are so ready to believe in them. This is an important field of study, as with greater knowledge of the character of physical law, one finds more and more (rather than less) accounts of miracles being touted as exceptions to natural laws. Hume’s ideas on the matter are extremely illuminating and amazingly enough, are fairly universal in their applicability as regards …show more content…
‘Section X: Of Miracles’ pp.534-
543.
Note: All references to Hume will be to this text unless otherwise noted.
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fact, that is what we must consider when we think about miracles. This experience can be our own or be the testimony of someone else. However, as Hume notes, experience sometimes leads us to uncertain conclusions. As an important example, causes and effects may not rigidly adhere to each other all the time, so that there is an inherent uncertainty about such relationships. Also, testimony can be quite untrustworthy at times and there must be sufficient reason for considering it as proper evidence. It is for this reason that
Hume proposes a method whereby one might possess degrees of belief about phenomena based on the evidence. The belief in a conclusion, according to Hume, must be proportional to the evidence in its favor (p.534). This method, to which I shall henceforth allude to as The Arithmetic of Doubt, consists of first collecting all the evidence (for or against) relevant to the point in question and based on which evidence is greater; deciding which side of the argument is the more probable one. Finally, the strength of this probability is proportional to the (qualitative) difference between the forces of the two competing sets of evidence (p.535). This, Hume maintains, is the way to understand, with some degree of accuracy, the degree of truth or falsity of a proposition that does not have an absolute conclusion
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