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

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

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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 that a miracle is a “transgression of a law of nature by a particular volation of the deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent”2. Hume argues that it is impossible to deduce the existence of a deity from the existence of the world, and that causes cannot be determined from effects.

One of the most important aspects of Hume's argument is his understanding of probability. Hume states that belief is often a result of probability in that we believe an event that has occurred most often as being most likely. In relation to miracles this suggests that miraculous events should be labelled as a miracle only where it would be even more unbelievable for it not to be. This is Hume's argument in Part 1 Of Miracles, he states that if somebody tells you that a miracle has occurred you do not have to physically go out and look at the evidence to determine it, all you really need to do is consider the concept of the miracle and if it is a violation of the laws of nature, we have to reason in acco...

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Works Cited

Beuchamp, Tom (ed), David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ( Oxford University Press 1999).

Bricke, John, Mind and Morality, (Clarendon Press Oxford 1996).

Geivett, R Douglas & Habermas, R Gary, In Defense Of Miracles, (InterVarsity Press, 1997).

Houston, J, Reported Miracles- A Critique of Hume, (Cambridge University Press 1994).

McGrew, Timothy, "Miracles", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

Norton, David (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Hume, (Cambridge University Press 1993)

Taylor, Christopher, PY2901 Lecture , Lecture Handout (St Andrews 2011).



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