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In explaining Hume\'s critique of the belief in miracles, we must first
understand the definition of a miracle. The Webster Dictionary defines a
miracle as: a supernatural event regarded as to define action, one of the acts
worked by Christ which revealed his divinity an extremely remarkable
achievement or event, an unexpected piece of luck. Therefore, a miracle is
based on one\'s perception of past experiences, what everyone sees. It is based
on a individuals own reality, and the faith in which he/she believes in, it is
based on interior events such as what we are taught, and exterior events, such
as what we hear or see first hand.
When studying Hume\'s view of a miracle, he interprets or defines a miracle as
such; a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, an event which is not
normal to most of mankind. Hume explains this point brilliantly when he states,
“Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it has ever happened in the common course of
nature. It is no miracle that a man seemingly in good health should die on a
sudden.” (Hume p.888) Hume states that this death is quite unusual, however it
seemed to happen naturally. He could only define it as a true miracle if this
dead man were to come back to life. This would be a miraculous event because
such an experience has not yet been commonly observed. In which case, his
philosophical view of a miracle would be true.
Hume critiques and discredits the belief in a miracle merely because it goes
against the laws of nature. Hume defines the laws of nature to be what has
been “uniformly” observed by mankind, such as the laws of identity and gravity.
He views society as being far to liberal in what they consider to be a miracle.
He gives the reader four ideas to support his philosophy in defining a true
miracle, or the belief in a miracle. These points leads us to believe that
there has never been a miraculous event established.
Hume\'s first reason in contradicting a miracle is, in all of history there has
not been a miraculous event with a sufficient number of witnesses. He
questions the integrity of the men and the reputation in which they hold in
society. If their reputation holds great integrity, then and only then can we
have full assurance in the testimony of men. Hume is constantly asking
throughout the passage questions to support proof for a miracle. He asks
questions such as this; Who is qualified? Who has the authority to say who
qualifies? As he asks these questions we can see there are no real answers, in
which case, it tends to break the validity of the witnesses to the miracle.
Hume\'s second reason in contradicting the validity of a miracle is that he views
all of our beliefs, or what we choose to accept, or not accept through past
experience and what history dictates to us. Furthermore, he tends to discredit
an individual by playing on a human beings consciousness or sense of reality.
An example is; using words such as, the individuals need for “excitement” and “
wonder” arising from miracles. Even the individual who can not enjoy the
pleasure immediately will still believe in a miracle, regardless of the
possible validity of the miracle. With this, it leads the individual to feel a
sense of belonging and a sense of pride. These individuals tend to be the
followers within society. These individuals will tend to believe faster than
the leaders in the society. With no regard to the miracles validity, whether
it is true or false, or second hand information. Miracles lead to such strong
temptations, that we as individuals tend to lose sense of our own belief of
fantasy and reality. As individuals we tend to believe to find attention, and
to gossip of the unknown. Through emotions and behavior Hume tends to believe
there has been many forged miracles, regardless if the information is somewhat
valid or not.
His third reason in discrediting the belief in a miracle is testimony versus
reality. Hume states, “It forms a strong presumption against all supernatural
and miraculous events, that they are observed chiefly to abound among ignorant
and barbarous ancestors; or if civilized people has ever given admission to
any of them, that people will be found to have received them from these
barbarous ancestors, who transmitted them with that inviolable sanction and
authority, which always attend perceived opinions.” (Hume p.891) In any case
many of the miraculous events which happened in past
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Miracles, Of Miracles, Noah in Islam, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume
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