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Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume Essay

In his essay “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding”, David Hume expressed the most powerful arguments ever formulated against the rationality of belief in miracles. This paper seeks to summarize Hume’s various arguments against religion.

Summarize Hume’s argument about miracles.

While arguing against miracles, Hume starts by providing a brief definition of the miracle at the beginning of his essay. He defines miracle as a “violation of the laws of nature”. Hume argues that the occurrence of miracles lacks creditability because there is no evidence to support its occurrence.

While questioning the credibility of miracles, Hume states that it is only through evidence that rational human beings can judge between two pragmatic claims. He goes ahead to claim that the weight of a good evidence relies on a number of factors including consistency and comportment. Hume claims that miracles are incapable of being proved by any testimony or evidence whatsoever. He claims that there is a uniform experience against the existence of any miracle.

Therefore, since the evidence for the law of miracles is extremely limited and that the evidence against the occurrences of miracles can easily overshadow these evidences, then it is highly possible that miracles have no empirical backgrounds. Hume, therefore, suggests that as rational human beings we should not believe in miracles.

How does van Inwagen object to Hume’s argument about miracles?

Inwagen asserts that neither a miracle nor anything else can violate the law of nature. He asserts that Hume’s argument attack on religion depends on a false definition, and it does not exhibit any credibility. Inwagen, therefore, refutes claims by David Hume that the concept of miracles violates the law of nature.

What should we think about testimony about miracles?

As Hume states, testimony derives its authority exclusively from the human experience of conformity between testimony and facts. Therefore, one cannot verify the correspondence of testimony with reality without consulting other testimony; one must possess some other reasons for placing confidence in testimony than in experience of this correspondence.

Contrary to Hume, testimony does not derive its trustworthiness from experience, and one cannot disregard testimony’s evidence simply because it concern realities that one has not experienced. Therefore, we should accept testimony about miracles.

Summarize Hume’s objection to design arguments.

In the essay “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding”, Hume expresses his inner fillings about the rationality of design arguments. He argues that design argument does not provide a tangible proof to explain the existence of God. Design argument asserts that, as rational human beings, we can only explain the complexity of nature through aptitude and design.

Hume argues that the design arguments are faulty because it does not reflect the sort of argument it claims to reflect. Though he claims that the argument from design is in line with the argument by analogy, he still observes that there is a weak relationship between the two concepts. He, therefore, asserts that it is not justified to conclude that the order in nature owes its existence to intellectual design.

Summarize one contemporary teleological argument for the existence of God (either Swinburne or Collins).

While presenting his argumentations for the existence of God, Swinburne starts by constructing a concrete summary that disclose the accurate composition of the teleological point of view. Swinburne analyzes both types of the teleological argument embraces all under the light of incredulous evaluation and then present insight and justification that gives room for philosophical analysis. At the beginning of his essay, Swinburne reveals two types of teleological arguments.

The two types of the teleological argument he present includes ‘the regularity of co presence’ and ‘regularity of succession’. Swinburne uses these two arguments to provide evidence that there have been many private experiences purportedly of God and that, for this reason, it is highly probable that God exists. Swinburne employs the idea of an asymmetrical relation of dependence in relation to God and the world.

Does this argument escape Hume’s critique? Is this argument successful?

Richard Swinburne’s argument does not escape Hume’s critique. While Hume establishes that the probability of Gods existence is higher than some threshold value, David Hume, on the other hand, asserts that the complexity of nature may not be as a result of any intellectual design. While Swinburne provides a probabilistic approach on the existence of God, Hume does not seem to provide any room for the existence of Supernatural being.

While Swinburne holds that God does not depend upon anything but any world must depend totally upon God, Hume does not acknowledge that Human beings should depend upon God, as he does not see a strong evidence for the existence of God. Based on Hume’s argument, Richard Swinburne argument is not successful because it does not present matters at hand with facts but with probability.

How might we understand sec. X and XI as a two-pronged attack on religion? (That is, how can we understand X as an attack on revealed religion and section XI as an attack on natural religion?)

In section X and IX, Hume argues that the existence of every concept of the world can only be explained by repeated evidence. In section X, Hume asserts that revealed religion lacks credibility because there is not tangible evidence to support its existence. Though he acknowledges the existence of natural religion and that there is order in the world, he does not acknowledge the existence of supernatural being. Hume’s main intention is to make people under people understand that they should present their arguments with concrete evidence before making any conclusions.

Is Hume’s two-pronged attack on religion successful?

Hume’s two-prolonged attacks on religion are not successful. Hume’s attack fails on two accounts. First, His understanding of natural religion as dependent for its authority on experience leads to an infinite regress; one cannot verify religion with evidence, rather it is a matter of faith and belief.

Second, Hume’s definition of the existence of supernatural being and religion as a violation of the laws of nature distorts the authentic character of both religion and the law of nature. Religions do not conflict with, but rather presupposes the regular operation of nature’s law. An occurrence, which the laws of nature show to be naturally impossible, either falsifies one or more putative laws of nature or derives from supernatural casualty, in which case it is beyond the scope of these laws.


Conclusively, though Hume argues that miracles violate the law of nature, it is necessary to note that law of nature does not rule out miracles as he suggests. His arguments, therefore, do not provide a precise answer to the existence of miracles and other philosophical concepts.

This Essay on Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume was written and submitted by user Kobe Fisher to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Kobe Fisher studied at Case Western Reserve University, USA, with average GPA 3.4 out of 4.0.

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Fisher, K. (2019, August 20). Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Work Cited

Fisher, Kobe. "Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume." IvyPanda, 20 Aug. 2019,

1. Kobe Fisher. "Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume." IvyPanda (blog), August 20, 2019.


Fisher, Kobe. "Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume." IvyPanda (blog), August 20, 2019.


Fisher, Kobe. 2019. "Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume." IvyPanda (blog), August 20, 2019.


Fisher, K. (2019) 'Analysis of “An enquiry concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume'. IvyPanda, 20 August.

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