Hume's Argument against Miracles

Edited by Daniel Von Wachter (International Academy of Philosophy In The Principality of Liechtenstein)
About this topic
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.
Introductions Larmer 1988
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  1. added 2020-02-11
    Hume, Holism, and Miracles.Jordan Howard Sobel - 2003 - Mind 112 (448):728-733.
  2. added 2020-02-11
    Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles.Richard Swinburne - 2002 - Mind 111 (441):95-99.
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  3. added 2019-09-07
    The Everlasting Check: Hume on Miracles, by Alexander George: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016, Pp. Xiii + 98, US$24.95. [REVIEW]Wade Robison - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):834-835.
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  4. added 2019-09-07
    Is Hume's Critique of Induction Self‐Defeating?Charles Cassini - 2014 - Heythrop Journal 55 (1).
  5. added 2019-09-07
    Defending Humility: A Philosophical Sketch with Replies to Tara Smith and David Hume.Michael W. Austin - 2012 - Philosophia Christi 14 (2):461-472.
    In this philosophical note I first offer a brief sketch of a Christian conception of humility. Next, I consider two criticisms of the claim that humility is a virtue, one from David Hume and a second from contemporary philosopher Tara Smith. What follows in this note is not a comprehensive defense of the claim that humility is a virtue. However, if humility is not a virtue, it will be for reasons other than those proffered by Hume and Smith, as their (...)
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  6. added 2019-09-07
    Robert J. Fogelin, A Defense of Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW]Dan O'brien - 2004 - Philosophy in Review 24:100-102.
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  7. added 2019-09-07
    Hume's Racism and His Case Against the Miraculous.Hendrik van der Breggen - 2002 - Philosophia Christi 4 (2):427-442.
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  8. added 2019-09-07
    Hume, Miracle Reports, and Credibility.Hendrik van der Breggen - unknown
    The purpose of this thesis is to gain an accurate appreciation of the force of David Hume's arguments against reasonable belief in the truth of miracle reports. To avoid the possibility of misrepresenting Hume's arguments, which are found in his essay "Of Miracles," I expend considerable effort in attempting to interpret them fairly and charitably. Because an important claim in Part One of his two-part essay is understood by Hume in private correspondence to mean something significantly different from its obvious (...)
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  9. added 2019-09-07
    Hume on Probability.Barry Gower - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (1):1-19.
  10. added 2019-09-07
    Vindicating the “Principle of Relative Likelihood”.Keith Chrzan - 1984 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 16 (1):13 - 18.
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  11. added 2019-09-07
    Hume'S Critique of Miracles: An Irrelevant Triumph1: RICHARD L. FERN.Richard L. Fern - 1982 - Religious Studies 18 (3):337-354.
    In The Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Hume argues that there can in principle be no good reason for believing a miracle has occurred. Recently, Richard Swinburne has disagreed, arguing that there could be good reason to believe a miracle has occurred. I will argue that both Hume and Swinburne are correct. So long as we accept Hume's notion of a miracle, his argument against the rationality of belief in such events stands firm. In this respect, Swinburne's attempted refutation fails. In (...)
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  12. added 2019-09-07
    Hume's Species of Probability.Ian Hacking - 1978 - Philosophical Studies 33 (1):21 - 37.
  13. added 2019-09-07
    David Hume.J. F. Riley - 1977 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):312-313.
  14. added 2019-09-07
    Hume's Metaphysics: A New Theory of Order.Paul Grimley Kuntz - 1976 - Religious Studies 12 (4):401 - 428.
  15. added 2019-09-07
    Hume on Belief.Michael Hodges & John Lachs - 1976 - Review of Metaphysics 30 (1):3 - 18.
    In the light of this attention, it is surprising that we are unable to find a single writer who has noted an obvious contradiction between the Treatise of Human Nature and the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding on the subject of belief. In the Treatise Hume explicitly proposes a definition of belief. He says.
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  16. added 2019-09-07
    Hume's Philosophy of Belief. [REVIEW]B. S. J. - 1963 - Review of Metaphysics 16 (3):581-581.
    This is a detailed commentary on Hume's first Inquiry. Flew argues, rightly, that it should not be treated simply as a weakened abridgement of part of the Treatise. He gives a great deal of the historical context in an interesting and helpful way, but he is primarily concerned to lay out and to assess Hume's arguments. Inevitably much of the book covers quite familiar ground, but in discussing Hume's arguments on miracles and on religion generally, Flew has a number of (...)
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  17. added 2019-09-07
    David Hume.R. F. Tredwell - 1959 - Review of Metaphysics 12 (3):486-486.
  18. added 2019-06-06
    Misunderstanding Hume’s Argument Against Miracles: A Response to Gregory L. Bock.Robert Larmer - 2011 - Philosophia Christi 13 (1):155-163.
    In his recent paper, “Understanding David Hume’s Argument against Miracles,” Gregory Bock takes the increasingly popular position that Hume’s intent in “Of Miracles” was not to argue that testimony is in principle incapable of grounding a rational belief in miracles, but rather that it is in principle incapable of grounding a rational belief in miracles that could act as the foundation for a religion. I argue that this interpretation of the text does not withstand critical scrutiny.
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  19. added 2019-06-06
    Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles. [REVIEW]Robert Sloan Lee - 2003 - Faith and Philosophy 20 (3):379-382.
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  20. added 2019-06-06
    David Hume and Jonathan Edwards on Miracles and Religious Faith.James P. Danaher - 2001 - 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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  21. added 2019-06-06
    Bayesian Analyses of Hume’s Argument Concerning Miracles.Michael Levine - 1997 - Philosophy and Theology 10 (1):101-106.
    Bayesian analyses are prominent among recent and allegedly novel interpretations of Hume’s argument against the justified belief in miracles. However, since there is no consensus on just what Hume’s argument is any Bayesian analysis will beg crucial issues of interpretation. Apart from independent philosophical arguments—arguments that would undermine the relevance of a Bayesian analysis to the question of the credibility of reports of the miraculous—no such analysis can, in principle, prove that no testimony can establish the credibility of a miracle. (...)
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  22. added 2019-06-06
    In Defense of Hume’s Balancing of Probabilities in the Miracles Argument.Alan Hájek - 1995 - 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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  23. added 2019-06-06
    Advantageous Falsehood: The Person Moved by Faith Strikes Back.Wilfried K. Backhaus - 1993 - Philosophy and Theology 7 (3):289-310.
    In Hume’s Of Miracles the person movecl by faith is put in a dilemma between faith and reason. Can one resolve this dilemma as a compleat Humean? The answer is yes. Within the Humean context different approaches can be developed ta overcome Hume’s dilemma. One uses Hume’s theory of utility to defend the belief in the afterlife. The other requires Hume to place faith on a par with beauty and therefore among the passions to which reason must be a slave. (...)
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  24. added 2019-06-06
    The Burial and Resurrection of Hume's Essay "Of Miracles".John O. Nelson - 1986 - Hume Studies 12 (1):57-76.
    I TRY TO EXPLAIN WHY THE "ESSAY OF MIRACLES" DID NOT APPEAR IN THE "TREATISE" BUT DID IN THE "ENQUIRY". I ARGUE THAT THE ESSAY WAS ORIGINALLY DIRECTED AGAINST REVEALED KNOWLEDGE; SO DIRECTED, IT FITTED INTO THE TIGHTLY ORGANIZED PROGRAM OF THE "TREATISE", BUT HAD TO BE SUPPRESSED FOR PRUDENTIAL REASONS. RECONSTRUCTED AS AN ESSAY DIRECTED MERELY AGAINST NON-SCRIPTURAL MIRACLES ITS APPEARANCE IN THE "ENQUIRY" PRESENTED NO PHILOSOPHICAL OR PRUDENTIAL DIFFICULTIES.
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  25. added 2019-06-06
    IV.—Hume's Theory of the Credibility of Miracles.C. D. Broad - 1916 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 17 (1):77-94.
  26. added 2018-09-20
    Hume on Laws and Miracles.Nathan Rockwood - 2018 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 92 (4).
    Hume famously argues that the laws of nature provide us with decisive reason to believe that any testimony of a miracle is false. In this paper, I argue that the laws of nature, as such, give us no reason at all to believe that the testimony of a miracle is false. I first argue that Hume’s proof is unsuccessful if we assume the Humean view of laws, and then I argue that Hume’s proof is unsuccessful even if we assume the (...)
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  27. added 2018-07-29
    Does It Matter Whether a Miracle-Like Event Happens to Oneself Rather Than to Someone Else?Luc Bovens - 2012 - In Jake Chandler & Victoria S. Harrison (eds.), Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 64-75.
    Let a miracle-like event be an event that is seemingly indicative of the existence of an all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful being, and yet might occur in a naturalistic world, though this would be very improbable. Suppose that a third-person report is equally as reliable as a first-person experience of such a miracle-like event — which avoids Hume’s objection to the evidential value of reports of miracles. The question addressed in this chapter is: Is it the case that, under the assumption (...)
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  28. added 2018-06-19
    Aquinas on Miracles: Some Thoughts: Carey Aquinas and Hume on Miracles.Thomas Carey - 2007 - Think 5 (15):97-107.
    Aquinas and Hume view miracles in starkly contrasting ways, as Thomas Carey here explains.
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  29. added 2018-03-09
    Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles. [REVIEW]Michael P. Levine - 2002 - Hume Studies 28 (1):161-167.
    This book is divided into two parts. The first is Earman's harsh critique of Hume's essay and its conclusions. The second part of the book contains selections from primary texts of Locke, Spinoza, Clarke, and others, along with the text "Of Miracles," recording changes that Hume made. There is little in the way of explanation, a single paragraph in the preface, as to why these texts have been selected. Presumably, Earman sees each of these as containing something significant to contribute (...)
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  30. added 2018-02-17
    Of Miracles.David Hume - 1748
    • 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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  31. added 2017-11-09
    Hume, Defeat, and Miracle Reports.Charity Anderson - 2018 - In Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Dani Rabinowitz (eds.), Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 13-28.
    This chapter investigates the rationality of failing to believe miracle reports. Hume famously argued that it is irrational to believe that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimony alone. While certain aspects of Hume's argument have received extensive discussion, other features of his argument have been largely overlooked. After offering a reconstruction of Hume's argument, I argue that epistemic defeat plays a central role in the argument, and I explore the aptness of as well as some limitations to (...)
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  32. added 2017-03-22
    David Humes „ewige Schranke" gegen den Aberglauben.Bernd Ludwig - 2001 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 55 (1):52-78.
    David Hume behauptet im Kapitel X der ersten Enquiry, eine "ewige Schranke" gegen den Wunderglauben entdeckt zu haben. Das Argument beruht wesentlich auf Humes innovativer, strikter Unterscheidung von demonstration, proof und probability, sowie dem Nachweis, daß jedem Wunder um seines Wundercharakters willen immer schon ein proof entgegensteht. Wunderzeugnisse hingegen können, aufgrund ihres speziellen Gegenstandes und angesichts der menschlichen Natur, diesem proof allenfalls eine probability entgegensetzen : Wunder lassen sich somit grundsätzlich nicht durch fremde Zeugnisse belegen.—Anders als in der Hume-Literatur zumeist (...)
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  33. added 2017-01-24
    The Philosophy of Miracles – By David Corner.Brad Kallenberg - 2009 - Modern Theology 25 (4):694-697.
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  34. added 2017-01-24
    Making a Better World: Revisiting David Hume with Ian Markham.Gerard Loughlin - 1992 - Modern Theology 8 (3):297-303.
  35. added 2017-01-23
    Hume, Frankenberry, and Theological Nonnaturalism.Donald S. Klinefelter - 1992 - American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 13 (2):77 - 87.
  36. added 2017-01-23
    The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume.R. M. Burns - 1981 - Associated University Presses.
  37. added 2017-01-23
    Hume’s Forgotten Fallacy.John A. Whittaker - 1980 - Sophia 19 (2):1-8.
  38. added 2017-01-22
    Schlesinger and Miracles.Richard Otte - 1993 - Faith and Philosophy 10 (1):93-98.
    George Schlesinger has recently presented a reply to Hume’s argument concerning miracles. Schlesinger argues that probability theory and some simple assumptions about miracles show that testimony for a miracle increases the probability of God existing; furthermore this testimony can raise the probability of God existing enough that it is rational to believe that God exists. I argue that one of the assumptions that Schlesinger makes is false, and that the justification Schlesinger gives for it does not succeed. Thus I claim (...)
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  39. added 2017-01-19
    Robert Fogelin's A Defense of Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW]John Beaudoin - 2004 - Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (2):281-284.
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  40. added 2017-01-17
    Everlasting Check or Philosophical Fiasco: A Response to Alexander George’s Interpretation of Hume’s ‘Of Miracles’.Robert Larmer - 2018 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 83 (1):97-110.
    In his The Everlasting Check: Hume on Miracles, Alexander George claims to provide readers with a single unified interpretation of Hume’s ‘Of Miracles’ that demonstrates Hume’s actual argument is philosophically rich and far more robust than is generally thought. This response argues that George is unsuccessful, ignoring crucial passages and misinterpreting others.
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  41. added 2017-01-17
    Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume.Linda Zagzebski & Joseph Houston - 1996 - Philosophical Review 105 (4):538.
    Joseph Houston’s book is a fine contribution to the philosophical investigation of the value of miracle reports for religious apologetics. It covers a wide range of arguments of interest to philosophers about the concept of miracles and the justifiability of belief in their occurrence, but it is also rich in theological and biblical sources. Houston’s reasoning throughout is careful and subtle, but neither technical nor excessively pedantic. So while the book is primarily intended for scholars, students should find it within (...)
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  42. added 2017-01-17
    Hume’s “Of Miracles”.Jonathan E. Adler - 1994 - Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 14 (2):1-10.
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  43. added 2017-01-17
    D: Peirce's Manuscript on "Hume on Miracles and Laws of Nature".Phillip Wiener - 1972 - In Evolution and the Founders of Pragmatism. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 223-226.
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  44. added 2017-01-16
    Miracle Reports, Moral Philosophy, and Contemporary Science.Hendrik Van der Breggen - unknown
    In the case of miracle reports, David Hume famously argued that there is something about "the very nature of the fact" to which the testimony testifies which contains the seeds of the testimony's destruction as credible evidence. The Humean idea, still held by several important contemporary philosophers, is that the very concept of miracle has logical implications for the world, these implications make a miracle extremely improbable, and so, at least for thinking people, reports of a miracle's occurrence are rendered (...)
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  45. added 2017-01-15
    A New Interpretation of Hume's ‘Of Miracles’.Chris Slupik - 1995 - Religious Studies 31 (4):517.
    It has often been suggested that according to Hume it is impossible in principle for testimony to prove a miracle, and that an indispensable element in Hume's argument is the claim that a miracle is by definition a violation of the laws of nature. I argue that both and are mistaken, and that, once Hume's ‘Of Miracles’ is viewed in a proper historical context, it emerges that Hume's argument against miracles is considerably different from what is usually supposed.
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  46. added 2016-12-12
    Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume.J. Houston - 1994 - Cambridge University Press.
    Suppose that one is presented with a report of a miracle as an exception to nature's usual course. Should one believe the report and so come to favour the idea that a god has acted miraculously? Hume argued that no reasonable person should do anything of the kind. Many religiously sceptical philosophers agree with him, and have both defended and developed his reasoning. Some theologians concur or offer other reasons why those who are believers in God should also refuse to (...)
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  47. added 2016-10-27
    A Modest Proposal. [REVIEW]Elliott Sober - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):487-494.
    This paper is an essay review of John Earman's book,\nHume's Abject Failure--the Argument against Miracles\n(Oxford University Press, New York, 2000). Earman is very\ncritical of Hume's famous argument about miracles, I am\nmore sympathetic, though I grant that Earman makes many\ngood critical points. Earman's method of analysis is\nBayesian, as is mine.
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  48. added 2016-07-01
    The Everlasting Check: Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW]Kenneth L. Pearce - 2016 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 54 (4):680-681.
    This book provides a concise treatment of David Hume’s “Of Miracles,” defending both an interpretation of Hume’s argument and an evaluation of its philosophical significance. The philosophical argumentation is consistently rigorous, and the interpretation of Hume is interesting and original.A distinctive aspect of George’s approach, which should have been highlighted in the introduction but was not, is his treatment of “Of Miracles” as a standalone essay. This approach serves to illuminate certain aspects of “Of Miracles,” especially the relationship between the (...)
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  49. added 2016-05-10
    Per Posterius: Hume and Peirce on Miracles and the Boundaries of the Scienti C Game.Tritten Tyler - 2014 - Argument: Biannual Philosophical Journal 4 (2).
    this article provides a response to David Hume’s argument against the plausibility of miracles as found in Section 10 of his An enquiry concerning human understanding by means of Charles Sanders Peirce’s method of retroduction, hypothetic inference, and abduction, as it is explicated and applied in his article entitled A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God, rather than fo‐ cusing primarily on Peirce’s explicit reaction to Hume in regard to miracles, as found in Hume on miracles. the main focus (...)
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  50. added 2015-09-05
    Hume and the Independent Witnesses.Arif Ahmed - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1013-1044.
    The Humean argument concerning miracles says that one should always think it more likely that anyone who testifies to a miracle is lying or deluded than that the alleged miracle actually occurred, and so should always reject any single report of it. A longstanding and widely accepted objection is that even if this is right, the concurring and non-collusive testimony of many witnesses should make it rational to believe in whatever miracle they all report. I argue that on the contrary, (...)
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