David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Southwest Philosophy Review 11 (1):111-118 (1995)
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 on; and this is clearly absurd. I show that this objection is misguided: far from providing counterexamples to Hume’s "balancing principle", as I call it, these cases actually confirm it, as some simple calculations of probabilities show
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