David Hume on the Existence of Miracles

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In this paper I will look at David Hume’s (1711-1776) discussion from the An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X, Of Miracles regarding whether it is a reasonable assumption to believe in the existence of miracles. I will first discuss why the existence of miracles matters and how miracles relate to our understanding of the laws of nature. Secondly, I will look at how Hume argues that it is never reasonable to believe in miracles. I will then provide objections to this argument which I feel support the idea that belief is not only reasonable but a necessary condition for a faithful life.

So why does the existence of miracles have any meaning at all? Belief in miracles helps to bring a sense of the divine existence of God to those who believe in a material way. Miracles are a way for signs from God to be transferred to mankind, in a way that we are able to understand. These miracles or signs from God can help to show divine favour, and to support our moral beliefs and ideology, to let us know that we are on the path of righteousness for those who believe. But what then, constitutes a miracle? A miracle, according to Hume, is a violation of the laws of nature, something that cannot happen, but does. (Hume, 1777,E10.12) I believe that Hume believes that the the laws of nature, cannot ever be violated, for if one believes that this is possible, then the laws of nature are fallible and belief in the laws of nature which should be unalterable, would no longer apply. It is therefore, far more reasonable to believe that the laws of nature, which have proven themselves over and over again, are in fact to be believed and accepted over any possiblity for the existence of a miracle.

Hume contends that the existenc...

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... and faith are not based solely on empirical evidence and absolute proof. It is the will to believe, the desire to see miracles that allows the faithful, to believe in the existence of miracles, not on any kind of sufficient evidence but on the belief that miracles can happen. Rather than Hume’s premise that a wise man proportions his belief in response to the eviddence, maybe a wise man would be better off, tempering his need for empirical evidence against his faith and his will to belief.

Works Cited

Hume, D. (1777). An inquiry Concerning Human Undersstanding. Retrieved from DavidHume.org: http://www.davidhume.org/texts/ehu.php#X

James, W. (2009, May 8). The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Will to Believe, by William James. Retrieved from The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/26659/pg26659.txt
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