Hume Essay Research Paper In explaining Humes

Hume Essay, Research Paper 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

Hume Essay, Research Paper

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


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 history would not

be considered a miracle in today?s world, or at any other time

in history. The reality most people believed at that period,

as a result can be considered lies or exaggerations. Hume

discredits the miracle as to the time period in which the

miracle is taking place, the mentality, or the reality of

individuals at that given time. Hume suggests that during

certain times in history we are told of miraculous accounts of

travelers. ?Because we as individuals love to wonder, there

is an end to common sense, and human testimony, in these

circumstances, loses all pretensions to authority.? (Hume


The final point Hume gives to discredit the validity of a

miracle is that there must be a number of witnesses to

validate the miracle. ?So that not only the miracle destroys

the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself.?

(Hume p.892). This basically means that the witnesses must

all give the exact same testimony of the facts of the event.

Hume finds difficulty in the belief or integrity of any

individual, and the difficulty of detecting falsehood in any

private or even public place in history. ?Where it is said to

happen much more when the scene is removed to ever so small a

distance.? (Hume p.892) A court of justice with accuracy and

judgment may find themselves often distinguishing between true

and false. If it is trusted to society through debate, rumors,

and mans passion

it tends to be difficult to trust the validity of the miracle.

Throughout the rest of the readings Hume states a few

events which many believe are miracles. He discredits many

these miracles through his critiques. I have chosen to

illustrate two ?so-called? miracles from the New American

Bible and to show how Hume would view these miracles. The

stories are of Noah?s Ark and The Burning Bush.

The story of Noah?s Ark took place when the Lord began to

realize how great mans wickedness on earth had become. He

began to regret the fact that he had created man on earth.

The lord decided the only way to rid the wickedness would be

to destroy all men, and all living creatures living on the

earth. The only men in which he would not destroy were to be

Noah, his sons, Noah?s wife and his sons wives. He also would

save a pair of animals. Of each species. The rest were to

perish from the earth. He chose Noah to be the favor and

carry out the task. The Lord requested Noah to build a ark

explained exactly how it was to be made. Noah spent six

hundred years of his life building the ark in which God

insisted upon. When the ark was finally complete The Lord

told Noah it was time to gather the selected few the floods

were about to come. These floods lasted forty days and forty

nights. The floods wiped out all living creatures on earth,

except all on the ark. In the six hundred and first year of

Noah?s life the floods stopped and the earth began to dry.

Noah then built an alter to the Lord and choosing from every

clean animal he offered holocaust on the alter. As God states

?Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the

desires of man?s heart are evil from the start; nor will I

ever strike down all living beings, as I have done.?

In deciding upon whether this is a valid miracle in

Hume?s opinion of miracles I believe he would consider it to

be a miracle but, would have a hard time validating the

testimony of it. The reasons in which he would criticize the

validity with in the testimony would be as follows. The

testimony versus the reality. To further support the theory

he would argue the time period in which the miracle had taken

place. And would find it difficult to believe with out a

reasonable doubt. There is a question to whether it could be

lies or exaggerations. Furthermore, it could not possibly be

a validated miracle considering the amount of men in which

witnessed the event. As well a s questioning the integrity of

the men. Although this miracle was a act of God we can still

question the validity of our ancestors or God for that matter.

Hume would not be satisfied not only with the integrity of the

individuals but the amount of witnesses at the given time.

Therefore we can only view this as a miracle depending upon

our own individual perceptions of what we believe to be true.

This leads to a non uniform event since we as individuals hold

different beliefs of what we hold true, and false.

The second miracle in which I will discuss was that

of Moses and the burning bush. As Moses was working in the

fields a angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out

of the holy bush. Almost amazing the bush was full of flames

but was yet not consumed. As he walked closer he heard the

voice, the voice of God telling Moses he was the chosen one to

take the Israelite?s out of Egypt away from the cruel hands of

the Egyptians. In disbelief that he was the chosen one he set

forth on his journey to Egypt with God watching over him and

leading the way. As Moses leads the Israelite?s out of Egypt

he comes to the Red Sea with the Egyptians close behind. As

the bible explains the miracle takes place the Red Sea splits

leading the Israelite?s to freedom. As the Egyptians were

crossing the sea it closed it?s gates and let them drown with

in the waters of the sea. In justifying whether Hume would

discredit this miracle he would definitely see how one may say

it is a miracle, but again would have a hard time validating

the testimony of the miracle. Again we see the pattern of the

fact that there is no one to testify for the event. We can

only view this as a truthful experience through our belief in

God and the bible. It is what we are taught to believe

through religious texts, and our house of worship. It is the

individuals perception of reality and what he or she believes

to be a valid event.

In conclusion, a miracle is actually based on an individuals own

perception of past and present experiences. The belief in a miraculous event

tends to have no real evidence through mans hope, it tends to be something

better through our expectations. I can not debate the belief of a miracle.

There is no right or wrong belief. It is viewed through our own individual

perception and faith, our existence and sense of reality.

7 1