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Summary David Hume, in Of Miracles (Section X. of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding), claimed either that, because a miracle would be a ‘violation of the laws of nature’, miracles are impossible or that one cannot have a justified belief that a miracle occurred. This argument has evoked an enormous amount of discussion, both criticising the argument and endorsing the argument. It started right after the publication of Of Miracles and is still going on.
Key works Hume 1748 is the text where Hume presents the argument. Earman 2000 is a rather technical thorough criticism of the argument. Campbell 1839 is one of the many contemporary criticisms of the argument. Mackie 1982 endorses the argument.
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  1. Dennis M. Ahern (1975). Hume on the Evidential Impossibility of Miracles. American Philosophical Quarterly:1 - 31.
    THE ESSAY "OF MIRACLES," IN ADDITION TO BEING ONE OF THE MOST PROVOKING SECTIONS OF HUME’S WRITINGS, IS ALSO ONE OF THE MOST WIDELY MISUNDERSTOOD. HUME CLAIMS HIS ARGUMENT IS SIMILAR TO AN ARGUMENT OF ARCHBISHOP TILLOTSON, AND I EXPLORE THE PARALLEL BETWEEN THE TWO ARGUMENTS IN DETAIL. FUNDAMENTAL TO BOTH IS THE CONCEPT OF EVIDENTIAL IMPOSSIBILITY: A PROPOSITION, P, IS EVIDENTIALLY IMPOSSIBLE IF AND ONLY IF ALLEGED EVIDENCE FOR THE TRUTH OF P WOULD NOT BE EVIDENCE FOR P, WERE (...)
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  2. Matthew C. Bagger (1997). Hume and Miracles. Journal of the History of Philosophy 35 (2):237 - 251.
    "Hume and Miracles" relates Hume’s essay "Of Miracles" to the Port-Royal ’Logic’ and John Locke. It argues that Hume did not, as is often supposed, intend to suggest that well-attested miracle reports defeat themselves by undermining the laws of nature they defy. Instead, Hume argues that the specifically ’religious’ nature of the testimony relating to miracle claims rules out their acceptance because of the frequency of fraud in religious matters. Hume’s views are too austere because one might wish to reject (...)
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  3. Steven M. Bayne (2007). Hume on Miracles: Would It Take a Miracle to Believe in a Miracle? Southern Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):1-29.
    Given Hume’s theory of belief and belief production it is no small task to explain how it is possible for a belief in a miracle to be produced. I argue that belief in a miracle cannot be produced through Hume’sstandard causal mechanisms and that although education, passion, and testimony initially seem to be promising mechanisms for producing belief in a miracle, none of these is able to produce the belief in amiracle. I conclude by explaining how this poses a problem (...)
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  4. Francis Beckwith (1989). David Hume's Argument Against Miracles: A Critical Analysis. Univ Pr of America.
    This book is a presentation and critical analysis of Hume’s argument against miracles. In addition, this work contains a critique of contemporary rehabilitations of Hume’s argument by Flew, Nowell-Smith, and McKinnon, and a defense of the kalam cosmological argument for God’s existence. The author concludes that the concept of miracle is perfectly coherent and that it is possible that one can enough evidence to be epistemically justified in believing that one has occurred. This book also includes a discussion on the (...)
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  5. Francis J. Beckwith (1991). Hume's Evidential/Testimonial Epistemology, Probability, and Miracles. Logos 12:87 - 104.
    In this paper I will critically analyze the first part of David Hume’s argument against miracles, which has been traditionally referred to as the in-principle argument. However, unlike most critiques of Hume’s argument, I will (1) present a view of evidential epistemology and probability that will take into consideration Hume’s accurate observation that miracles are highly improbable events while(2) arguing that one can be within one’s epistemic rights in believing that a miracle has occurred. As for the proper definition of (...)
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  6. David Berman (1980). Hume and Collins on Miracles. Hume Studies 6 (2):150-154.
  7. Lloyd F. Bitzer (1998). The "Indian Prince" in Miracle Arguments of Hume and His Predecessors and Early Critics. Philosophy and Rhetoric 31 (3):175 - 230.
    This essay examines miracle arguments employing Hume?s "Indian prince" (Locke?s "king of Siam," Butler?s "prince") in works from Locke to Richard Price, and explains the relation of those arguments to Hume?s "Of Miracles." Miracle advocates aimed to weaken the authority of uniform experience and strengthen testimony, but their arguments, more skeptical than Hume?s, undermined their case for miracles. Hume?s early critics objected that: by his theory, no novel facts, including miracles, can be inferred; he mistakenly collapsed testimony into reasoning from (...)
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  8. Larry Lee Blackman (1978). The Logical Impossibility of Miracles in Hume. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (3):179 - 187.
  9. S. Buckle (2001). Marvels, Miracles, and Mundane Order. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (1):1 – 31.
    Hume’s critique of religion in the first ’Enquiry’ is a unified whole. ’Of Miracles’ is not a free-standing critique of religion, but the first part of a two-stage argument. Hume follows Locke in subordinating evidence for miracles to natural theological arguments for the existence of God--without such supports miraculous claims are incredible (’disproven’ in his special sense). He differs from Locke in arguing, in ’Of a particular Providence’, that no such arguments are available. The decline of natural theology after Darwin (...)
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  10. Thomas Carey (2007). Aquinas (and Hume) on Miracles: Some Thoughts. Think 15 (15):97 - 107.
    Aquinas and Hume view miracles in starkly contrasting ways, as Thomas Carey here explains.
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  11. Steve Clarke (1999). Hume's Definition of Miracles Revised. American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (1):49 - 57.
    It is argued that Hume’s definition of miracle stands in need of revision because it fails to be inclusive of acts of supernatural intervention in the world which are non-law-violating. Potential revisions of the definition, due to Paul Dietl and Christopher Hughes are considered and found to be inadequate, and a new definition is put forward; a miracle is "an intended outcome of an intervention in the natural world by a supernatural agent." An objection to this definition is anticipated and (...)
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  12. Dorothy P. Coleman (1988). Hume, Miracles and Lotteries. Hume Studies 14 (2):328-346.
    THIS PAPER ANSWERS RECENT CRITICISMS OF HUME’S SKEPTICISM WITH REGARD TO MIRACLES BY THOSE WHO ARGUE THAT THERE ARE COUNTEREXAMPLES, ILLUSTRATED BY LOTTERIES, TO HUME’S ACCOUNT OF HOW THE TRUTH OF REPORTS ABOUT IMPROBABLE EVENTS MUST BE EVALUATED. THE AUTHOR FIRST SHOWS THAT THESE ARGUMENTS ARE ANALOGOUS TO BUTLER’S CRITICISM OF HUME’S PREDECESSORS IN THE DEBATE ABOUT MIRACLES. IT IS THEN ARGUED THAT EACH OF THESE CRITICISMS COLLAPSES THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PROBABILITIES PERTAINING TO EVENTS QUA UNIQUE OCCURRENCES AND PROBABILITIES PERTAINING (...)
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  13. Gary Colwell (1982). On Defining Away the Miraculous. Philosophy 57 (221):327 - 337.
    HUME AND HIS FOLLOWERS HAVE TRIED UNSUCCESSFULLY TO ESTABLISH THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF MIRACLES BY APPEALING SOLELY TO THE DEFINITIONS OF MIRACLE AND NATURAL LAW. HUME’S ARGUMENT TRADES UPON THAT PART OF THE DEFINITION OF MIRACLE WHICH PERTAINS TO THE NUMERICAL INSIGNIFICANCE OF MIRACULOUS EVENTS. HE DID NOT REALIZE THAT THE LARGE NUMERICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NON-REPEATABLE IRREGULAR EVENTS AND REPEATABLE REGULAR ONES LOGICALLY CANNOT BE USED AS A CRITERION BY WHICH TO DETERMINE THE EXISTENTIAL STATUS OF NUMERICALLY SMALL NON-REPEATABLE IRREGULAR EVENTS. (...)
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  14. James P. Danaher (2001). David Hume and Jonathan Edwards on Miracles and Religious Faith. Southwest Philosophy Review 17 (2):13-24.
    David Hume (1711-1776) and Jonathan Edwards (1703- 1758) had very different reputations concerning the Christian faith. In spite of this, they both had very similar positions concerning miracles and the supernatural. It is argued that although Hume rejects one type of miracle, he acknowledges another type. Edwards does essentially the same thing and rejects the same kind of miracle that Hume rejects, while acknowledging the kind of miracles that Hume acknowledges.
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  15. Philip Dawid & Donald Gillies (1989). A Bayesian Analysis of Hume's Argument Concerning Miracles. Philosophical Quarterly 39 (154):57-65.
  16. Georg J. W. Dorn (1987). Zu Bolzanos Wahrscheinlichkeitslehre. Philosophia Naturalis 24:423–441.
    Bolzano hat seine Wahrscheinlichkeitslehre in 15 Punkten im § 14 des zweiten Teils seiner Religionswissenschaft sowie in 20 Punkten im § 161 des zweiten Bandes seiner Wissenschaftslehre niedergelegt. (Ich verweise auf die Religionswissenschaft mit 'RW II', auf die Wissenschaftslehre mit 'WL II'.) In der RW II (vgl. p. 37) ist seine Wahrscheinlichkeitslehre eingebettet in seine Ausführungen "Über die Natur der historischen Erkenntniß, besonders in Hinsicht auf Wunder", und die Lehrsätze, die er dort zusammenstellt, dienen dem ausdrücklichen Zweck, mit mathematischem Rüstzeug (...)
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  17. Travis Dumsday (2008). Religious Experience. International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (3):371-379.
    Hume’s destructive account of miracles has been thought by many to exclude the possibility of rationally accepting testimony to supernatural events. Here I argue that even if one grants that his argument works with respect to testimony about miracles, it does not succeed in showing that all testimony to the supernatural is inadmissible, since room is left open for religious experiences, especially those of an intersubjective kind, to function as evidence. If this is so, there is new reason to think (...)
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  18. John Earman (2002). Bayes, Hume, Price, and Miracles. In Richard Swinburne (ed.), Bayes’s Theorem. Oxford University Press. 91--110.
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  19. John Earman (2000). Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles. Oxford University Press.
    This vital study offers a new interpretation of Hume's famous "Of Miracles," which notoriously argues against the possibility of miracles. By situating Hume's popular argument in the context of the 18th century debate on miracles, Earman shows Hume's argument to be largely unoriginal and chiefly without merit where it is original. Yet Earman constructively conceives how progress can be made on the issues that Hume's essay so provocatively posed about the ability of eyewitness testimony to establish the credibility of marvelous (...)
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  20. John Earman (1993). Bayes, Hume, and Miracles. Faith and Philosophy 10 (3):293-310.
    Recent attempts to cast Hume’s argument against miracles in a Bayesian form are examined. It is shown how the Bayesian apparatus does serve to clarify the structure and substance of Hume’s argument. But the apparatus does not underwrite Hume’s various claims, such as that no testimony serves to establish the credibility of a miracle; indeed, the Bayesian analysis reveals various conditions under which it would be reasonable to reject the more interesting of Hume’s claims.
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  21. Joseph Ellin (1993). Again: Hume on Miracles. Hume Studies 19 (1):203-212.
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  22. Lorne Falkenstein (2003). Hume's Project in ‘the Natural History of Religion’. Religious Studies 39 (1):1-21.
    There are good reasons to think that at least a part of Hume's project in the ‘The natural history of religion’ was to buttress a philosophical critique of the reasonableness of religious belief undertaken in other works, and to attack a fundamentalist account of the history of religion and the foundations of morality. But there are also problems with supposing that Hume intended to achieve either of these goals. I argue that two problems in particular – accounting for Hume's neglect (...)
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  23. Kenneth G. Ferguson (1992). An Intervention Into the Flew/Fogelin Debate. Hume Studies 18 (1):105-112.
    Robert Fogelin has forcefully argued that Hume intended to produce an "a priori" argument to show that miracles are logically impossible, while Anthony Flew is noted for a conflicting view that Hume intended merely to urge caution in accepting miracles solely on the basis of testimony. I furnish text ("Enquiry", Chapter X) which lends aid and comfort to both. But Fogelin’s interpretation forbids "miracles" only under a strict definition, whereas the empirical arguments favored by Flew are also needed if particular (...)
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  24. Antony Flew (1990). Fogelin on Hume on Miracles. Hume Studies 16 (2):141-144.
    This reply to Fogelin argues, simply but sharply, that my view of what Hume was doing in Section X of his first Enquiry and not Fogelin’s is correct, and was also Hume’s own view, as there stated.
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  25. Antony Flew (1986). Hume's Philosophy of Religion. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 20 (Supplement):129-146.
    THIS SURVEY WAS ORIGINALLY COMPOSED FOR (IN US TERMS) SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO ARE PREPARING FOR A NEWLY ESTABLISHED EXAMINATION IN PHILOSOPHY. ONE OF THE SET-BOOKS PRESCRIBED FOR THIS COURSE IS HUME’S FIRST "INQUIRY". "HUME’S PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION" THEREFORE CONTAINS NO MATERIAL NOT ALTERNATIVELY AVAILABLE: EITHER IN "HUME’S PHILOSOPHY OF BELIEF" (LONDON: ROUTLEDGE AND KEGAN PAUL, 1961); OR IN "DAVID HUME": "PHILOSOPHER OF MORAL SCIENCE" (OXFORD: BLACKWELL, 1986).
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  26. Antony Flew (1979). The Red Queen at Substraction? Hume Studies 5 (2):110-111.
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  27. Antony Flew (1959). Hume's Check. Philosophical Quarterly 9 (34):1-18.
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  28. Robert J. Fogelin (2003). A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton Univ Pr.
    Arguing that criticisms have--from the very start--rested on misreadings, Fogelin begins by providing a narrative of the way Hume’s argument actually unfolds. What Hume’s critics (and even some of his defenders) have failed to see is that Hume’s primary argument depends on fixing the appropriate standards of evaluating testimony presented on behalf of a miracle. Given the definition of a miracle, Hume quite reasonably argues that the standards for evaluating such testimony must be extremely high. Hume then argues that, as (...)
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  29. Robert J. Fogelin (1990). What Hume Actually Said About Miracles. Hume Studies 16 (1):81-86.
    Contrary to the standard interpretations, this essay shows that Hume, in Section X of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, explicitly put forward an a priori argument intended to show that, by the nature of the case, there must always be adequate empirical evidence establishing that a reported miracle could not have taken place.
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  30. James E. Force (1982). Hume and Johnson on Prophecy and Miracles: Historical Context. Journal of the History of Ideas 43:463 - 476.
    A CLOSE READING OF HUME’S ESSAY, "OF MIRACLES", REVEALS THAT HUME SPECIFICALLY AIMS HIS SCEPTICAL ARGUMENT AT THE PROOF OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION VIA FULFILLED PROPHETIC PREDICTIONS AS WELL AS AT MIRACLES. JOHNSON IS UNAWARE OF THIS FACT AND SO I CONCLUDE THAT HE HIMSELF HAD NOT READ THE ESSAY CLOSELY, THAT HE PROBABLY ONLY KNEW THE GENERAL OUTLINES OF THE ARGUMENT AT SECOND HAND THROUGH BOSWELL.
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  31. James E. Force (1977). Hume in the Dialogues, the Dictates of Convention, and the Millennial Future State of Biblical Prophecy. Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):131-141.
    THE PURPOSE OF THE ARTICLE IS TO SUPPORT KEMP SMITH’S INTERPRETATION THAT PHILO, IN THE "DIALOGUES", SPEAKS FOR HUME "FROM START TO FINISH." THIS INTERPRETATION HAS RECENTLY BEEN QUESTIONED BY PROFESSOR JAMES NOXON WHO BELIEVES THAT PHILO IS A TRUE PYRRHONIAN SCEPTIC AND THEREFORE DOES NOT REPRESENT THE MITIGATED SCEPTICISM OF HUME. I SUPPORT KEMP SMITH’S INTERPRETATION BY SUGGESTING WHY PHILO SEEMS TO REVERSE HIMSELF AT THE END OF THE "DIALOGUES" AND TO ACCEPT THE DESIGN ARGUMENT AS SUPPORT FOR A (...)
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  32. Don Garrett (2002). Hume on Testimony Concerning Miracles. In Peter Millican (ed.), Reading Hume on Human Understanding: Essays on the First Enquiry. Clarendon Press.
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  33. J. C. A. Gaskin (1964). David Hume and the Eighteenth-Century Interest in Miracles. Hermathena 99:80 - 91.
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  34. J. Gill (2001). Hume, Holism, and Miracles. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (3):439 – 440.
    Book Information Hume, Holism, and Miracles. By David Johnson. Cornell University Press. Ithaca. 1999. Pp. xi + 106. Hardback, £22.95.
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  35. Donald Gillies (1991). A Bayesian Proof of a Humean Principle. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (2):255-256.
    Hume bases his argument against miracles on an informal principle. This paper gives a formal explication of this principle of Hume’s, and then shows that this explication can be rigorously proved in a Bayesian framework.
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  36. Barry Gower (1990). David Hume and the Probability of Miracles. Hume Studies 16 (1):17-31.
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  37. William Grey (1993). Hume, Miracles, and the Paranorrnal. Cogito 7 (2):100-105.
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  38. Alan Hájek (2008). Are Miracles Chimerical? In , Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Volume 1. Oxford Univ Pr. 82-104.
    I analyze David Hume’s "Of Miracles". I vindicate Hume’s argument against two charges: that it (1) defines miracles out of existence; (2) appeals to a suspect principle of balancing probabilities. He argues that miracles are, in a certain sense, maximally improbable. To understand this sense, we must turn to his notion of probability as ’strength of analogy’: miracles are incredible, according to him, because they bear no analogy to anything in our past experience. This reveals as anachronistic various recent Bayesian (...)
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  39. Alan Hájek (1995). In Defense of Hume's Balancing of Probabilities in the Miracles Argument. Southwest Philosophy Review 11 (1):111-118.
    I vindicate Hume’s argument against belief in miracle reports against a prevalent objection. Hume has us balance the probability of a miracle’s occurrence against the probability of its being falsely attested to, and argues that the latter must inevitably be the greater; thus, reason requires us to reject any miracle report. The "flaw" in this reasoning, according to Butler and many others, is that it proves too much--it counsels us to never believe historians, newspaper reports of lottery results, and so (...)
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  40. Robert Hambourger (1980). Belief in Miracles and Hume's Essay. Noûs 14 (4):587-604.
    IN HIS ESSAY "OF MIRACLES" HUME DERIVES THE CONCLUSION THAT TESTIMONY CANNOT PROVIDE ADEQUATE REASON TO BELIEVE IN A MIRACLE FROM TWO PRINCIPLES; A GENERAL ONE CONCERNING THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH TESTIMONY SHOULD BE ACCEPTED, AND THE PRINCIPLES THAT TO BE BELIEVED PROPERLY TO BE A MIRACLE, AN EVENT WOULD HAVE TO VIOLATE PRINCIPLES AS WELL ESTABLISHED AS ANY CAN BE BY INFERENCES FROM EXPERIENCE. HERE IT IS ARGUED THAT BOTH OF HUME’S PRINCIPLES ARE FALSE, AFTER WHICH A POSITIVE ACCOUNT (...)
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  41. Peter Harrison (2001). Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 39 (4):592-594.
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  42. Peter Harrison (1999). Prophecy, Early Modern Apologetics, and Hume's Argument Against Miracles. Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (2):241 - 256.
    Hume’s "Of Miracles" concludes with the claim that prophecies, too, are miracles, and as such are susceptible to the same arguments which apply to miracles. However, both Hume and his commentators have overlooked the distinctive features of prophecy. Hume’s chief objection to miracles--that one is never justified in crediting second-hand testimony to miraculous events--does not necessarily apply to the argument from fulfilled prophecies as it was understood in the eighteenth century. Neither was prophecy necessarily thought to entail any breach of (...)
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  43. Rodney D. Holder (1998). Hume on Miracles: Bayesian Interpretation, Multiple Testimony, and the Existence of God. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (1):49-65.
    Hume's argument concerning miracles is interpreted by making approximations to terms in Bayes's theorem. This formulation is then used to analyse the impact of multiple testimony. Individual testimonies which are ‘non-miraculous’ in Hume's sense can in principle be accumulated to yield a high probability both for the occurrence of a single <span class='Hi'>miracle</span> and for the occurrence of at least one of a set of miracles. Conditions are given under which testimony for miracles may provide support for the existence of (...)
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  44. J. Houston (1994). Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume. Cambridge Univ Pr.
    If one is presented with a report of a miracle, a violation of a law of nature, should one ever believe the report and so come to favor the idea that a god has acted? Hume thought not; many philosophers and theologians have agreed with him and have developed or added to his arguments. This book argues that Hume and his supporters beg questions, and that miracle stories may contribute towards reasonable belief in God. Implications in epistemology, science, history, and (...)
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  45. Daniel Howard-Snyder (2003). On Hume's Philosophical Case Against Miracles. In Christopher Bernard (ed.), God Matters: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. Longman Publications.
    According to the Christian religion, Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again”. I take it that this rising again—the Resurrection of Jesus, as it’s sometimes called—is, according to the Christian religion, an historical event, just like his crucifixion, death, and burial. And I would have thought that to investigate whether the Resurrection occurred, we would need to do some historical research: we would need to assess the reliability of (...)
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  46. David Hume (1748). Of Miracles (Section X of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding).
    • If we always see b after a, we are justified in thinking b will follow a the next time we see a. • “A hundred instances or experiments on one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful expectation of any event; though a hundred uniform experiments, with only one that is contradictory, reasonably beget a pretty strong degree of assurance” (74).
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  47. M. Jacovides (2008). Review Of: Hume, Holism, and Miracles; Hume's Abject Failure; A Defense of Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 117 (1):142-147.
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  48. David Johnson (1999). Hume, Holism, and Miracles. Cornell University Press.
    David Johnson seeks to overthrow one of the widely accepted tenets of Anglo-American philosophy -- that of the success of the Humean case against the rational ...
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  49. Matthew Kieran (2001). Hume, Holism and Miracles by David Johnson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1999, Pp. 106 £22.95 Hb. Philosophy 76 (2):312-327.
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  50. John King-Farlow (1982). Historical Insights on Miracles: Babbage, Hume, Aquinas. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 13 (4):209 - 218.
    CHARLES BABBAGE, OUTSTANDING 19TH CENTURY FIGURE ON THEORY OF COMPUTING, URGES ON PROTO-GOODMANIAN AND NEO-MAIMONIDEAN GROUNDS THAT HUME IS QUITE WRONG ABOUT THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES’ OCCURRING. AQUINAS’ CLASSIFICATIONS OF MIRACLES INDICATE THAT NOT SINGLE PROBABILITY JUDGMENT IS ALWAYS RIGHT. BABBAGE’S WORK ON COMPUTING STILL CIRCULATES, BUT HIS NINTH BRIDGEWATER TREATISE (ON MIRACLES) HAS LONG DESERVED REPUBLICATION.
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