Miracles do exist; however, according to Hume, people should never believe in them. In Hume’s view, the occurrence of miracles depends on the Christian religion, which disqualifies their authenticity.
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Hume posits, “Our evidence, then, for the truth of the Christian religion is less than the evidence for the truth of our senses” (73). Therefore, the proof of the existence of miracles is weaker as compared to the stronger evidence of the real presence. This paper explores Hume’s argument for this conclusion, coupled with showing why the argument is not sound.
Hume disqualifies the existence of miracles, as the Christian religion is weaker and more insubstantial as compared to the evidence that comes with one’s experience. Also, Christianity is entirely based on the apostles’ testimonies, which might have been distorted or flawed from one generation to the other, and thus, they cannot be validated.
On the contrary, a person’s experience can be validated, and thus, it is stronger evidence as compared to the apostles’ alleged testimonies. Hume holds, “A wise man…proportions his belief to the evidence” (73). Evidence, in this case, amounts to tangible things like one’s surroundings. Therefore, any wise man cannot believe in miracles because one’s experience is greater than the unsubstantiated belief of miracles.
The second nullification of the existence of miracles hinges on the view that miracles violate natural laws. He claims, “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws…is as entire as any argument from experience can be imagined” (76).
In other words, Hume holds that every miracle should have credible proof and experience. Otherwise, the claims of miracles cannot hold. Also, Hume insinuates that everything that has been experienced conforms to the natural laws.
However, Hume’s claims are flawed, based on his assumptions. The first assumption is that natural laws should describe regular occurrences, but miracles are rare occurrences. The second assumption is that the regular occurrence should overrule the rare one.
The third assumption is that one should be in a position to weigh any evidence before validating it. Finally, the wise person should believe the greater evidence, which nullifies miracles, as they are lesser evidence.
Hume’s philosophy on miracles fails because it holds that miracles cannot be possible for they are based on testimonies. However, testimonies cannot be weighed, which violates Hume’s assumption, as listed above. Also, according to Hume, miracles’ evidence only appear as testimonies, as opposed to being experienced.
However, the experience cannot be perfect, which disqualifies Hume’s way of thinking. Also, Hume seeks to “silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and free us from their impertinent solicitations” (73). This way, Hume’s motive is to dispel Christianity and thus even when given evidence like the resurrection of Christ, he will certainly counter the circumstantial evidence because it is recorded in the scriptures, which are inaccurate according to him.
Therefore, Hume’s arguments fail as they rely on empiricism, which is self-defeating as it can only be assumed, but not proved. Experience, which is supreme according to Hume, cannot be perfect, and this aspect faults Hume’s assertions.
In conclusion, miracles are inexistent from Hume’s point of view. He holds that miracles are based on scriptures, which are unsubstantial because they were written by apostles based on allegations that cannot be weighed. However, Hume’s perspectives are flawed as he relies on empiricism, which is self-defeating because it cannot be established or validated through its principles.
Hume, David. “_Of Miracles.” An enquiry concerning human understanding with a letter from a gentleman to his friend in Edinburg and Hume’s abstract of a treatise of human nature. Ed. Eric Steinberg. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993. 72-77. Print.