David Hume's Argument Against Belief in the Existence of Miracles

2000 Words 8 Pages
David Hume was a British empiricist, meaning he believed all knowledge comes through the senses. He argued against the existence of innate ideas, stating that humans have knowledge only of things which they directly experience. These claims have a major impact on his argument against the existence of miracles, and in this essay I will explain and critically evaluate this argument.

In his discussion 'Of Miracles' in Section X of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Hume defines a miracle as “a violation of the laws of nature and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws”1. Basically a miracle is something that happens which is contrary to what would happen given the structure of the universe. He also states
…show more content…
In other words he is saying that no matter how good or reliable a testimony may be, it can never as it were on the basis of experience be justified to accept that testimony over and against what stands as testimony against the miracle happening. The testimony happens to be the laws of nature themselves. In this sense it is clear that Hume is giving us a priori argument in Part 1 in that he is saying that miracles are contrary to reason. However I think it would be easier to accept this view if Hume had not previously discussed his Induction theory. In regard that he thought that for example that just because the sun has risen every day so far, it does not necessarily follow that the sun will rise tomorrow, we have no rational basis in believing it will. However in regard to miracles he tells us to base our decisions on past experiences, if it is unlikely it is less likely to be true. So in that sense we should also be able to say that based on our past experiences the sun will definitely rise tomorrow? Also if the sun was not to rise, surely that would be a miracle in the sense that it would be a violation of the laws of nature? And what is exactly a violation of natural laws? Dorothy Coleman points out “past experience shows that what are at one time considered violations of natural laws are frequently found
Open Document