Hume defines miracles as ‘violations of the laws of nature’ which leads him to reject their existence, as by definition, they are beyond the realms of reasonable belief.
In defence of miracles, Swinburne challenges some of Hume’s practical arguments. Hume claims miracles only occur among uneducated and ignorant people, suggesting a lack of convincing testimony. Swinburne questions how you define when people are educated and what level of education is required to give ‘reliable’ testimony of a miracle, underlining Hume’s vagueness.
It could mean that people lack a familiarity with science as Hume suggests, but this fails to explain why many people who are clearly educated still attest to experiencing miracles. However, historical evidence ...view middle of the document...
Instead of this being contradictory, they perhaps simultaneously verify the belief in a common benevolent God, validating miracles.
Furthermore, Hume’s definition of a miracle is criticised as he places emphasis on the fixed and universal nature of natural laws. Swinburne introduces the argument of miracles being compatible with laws of nature, as laws are just generalisations. Instead, he calls miracles ‘counter instances to a law of nature’. For Hume the rigidity of these laws makes a miracle violating them very problematic. However, taking Swinburne’s approach, if natural laws are indeed expressions of probability, then a counter-instance to these laws does not necessarily involve a violation of the laws of nature. Thus Hume’s original definition is weakened as perhaps a more suitable alternative argues miracles are just different from events that have previously been observed and do not break some rule that must be obeyed. Perhaps then miracles are not impossible but unusual occurrences which increase our understanding.
The philosopher Ward reinforces this criticism, asserting that Hume’s definition implies there is something wrong with believing in miracles. It could therefore be argued that it is more suitable to deem miracles unlikely rather than impossible. However, Hume would respond that a sensible person would still choose the likely interpretation of an event rather than the unlikely. Following this judgement, miracles are simply illogical. Moreover, Mackie stresses that Hume simply meant that a miracle was an exception to the normal processes of nature, and this does not show a misunderstanding of the nature of the laws of nature.
These criticisms can be challenged with the support from