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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210 found
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  1. Hume and Catholic Miracles.Michael Jacovides - manuscript
    Two arguments in Hume’s essay on miracles are reductios ad Catholicism: if you believe in the miracles in the Bible, then you ought to believe in Catholic miracles as well. Hume’s intended readers hated Catholicism and would sooner reject miracles than follow the pope. Hume argues that Jansenist miracle stories meet the standards of trustworthiness as well as any miracles in history. He knows that his Protestant believers don’t believe the stories, and he hopes to persuade his readers to reject (...)
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  2. Hume, Contrary Miracles, and Religion as We Find It.Michael Jacovides - forthcoming - History of Philosophy Quarterly.
    In the ‘Contrary Miracles Argument,’ Hume argues that the occurrence of miracle stories in rival religions should undermine our belief in the trustworthiness of these reports. In order for this argument to have any merit, it has to be understood in its historical, religious context. Miracle stories are used in support of religions, and it’s part of religion as we find it to reject miracle stories from rival traditions. A defender of miracle stories could avoid the argument by breaking the (...)
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  3. Locke and Hume on Competing Miracles.Nathan Rockwood - forthcoming - Religious Studies:1-15.
    Christian apologists argue that the testimony of the miracles of Jesus provide evidence for Christianity. Hume tries to undermine this argument by pointing out that miracles are said to occur in other religious traditions and so miracles do not give us reason to believe in Christianity over the alternatives. Thus, competing miracles act as an undercutting defeater for the argument from miracles for Christianity. Yet, before Hume, Locke responds to this kind of objection, and in this paper I explain and (...)
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  4. The de Jure Objection Against Belief in Miracles.Gesiel da Silva - 2021 - Manuscrito 44 (4):434-452.
    Alvin Plantinga (1993a, 1993b, 2000) argues that de jure objections to theism depend on de facto objections: in order to say that belief in God is not warranted, one should first assume that this belief is false. Assuming Plantinga’s epistemology and his de facto/de jure distinction, In this essay, I argue that to show that belief in miracles is not warranted, one must suppose that belief in miracles is always false. Therefore, a person who holds a skeptical position regarding miracles (...)
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  5. David Hume and the Philosophy of Religion.Paul Russell - 2021 - In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion. New York, NY, USA: pp. 1-20.
    David Hume (1711-1776) is widely recognized as one of the most influential and significant critics of religion in the history of philosophy. There remains, nevertheless, considerable disagreement about the exact nature of his views. According to some, he was a skeptic who regarded all conjectures relating to religious hypotheses to be beyond the scope of human understanding – he neither affirmed nor denied these conjectures. Others read him as embracing a highly refined form of “true religion” of some kind. On (...)
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  6. Hume's Skepticism and the Problem of Atheism.Paul Russell - 2021 - In Reacsting Hume and Early Modern Philosophy: Selected Essays. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 303-339.
    David Hume was clearly a critic of religion. It is still debated, however, whether or not he was an atheist who denied the existence of God. According to some interpretations he was a theist of some kind and others claim he was an agnostic who simply suspends any belief on this issue. This essay argues that Hume’s theory of belief tells against any theistic interpretation – including the weaker, “attenuated” accounts. It then turns to the case for the view that (...)
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  7. A Kuhnian Critique of Hume on Miracles.Joshua Kulmac Butler - 2019 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 86 (1):39-59.
    In Part I of “Of Miracles,” Hume argues that belief in miracle-testimony is never justified. While Hume’s argument has been widely criticized and defended along a number of different veins, including its import on scientific inquiry, this paper takes a novel approach by comparing Hume’s argument with Thomas Kuhn’s account of scientific anomalies. This paper makes two arguments: first that certain types of scientific anomalies—those that conflict with the corresponding paradigm theory—are analogous to miracles in the relevant ways. Note, importantly, (...)
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  8. David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability.William L. Vanderburgh - 2019 - Lanham: Lexington Books.
    Hume says we never have grounds to believe in miracles. He’s right, but many commentators misunderstand his theory of probability and therefore his argument. This book shows that Humean probability descends from Roman law, and once properly contextualized historically and philosophically, Hume’s argument survives the criticisms leveled against it.
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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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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  12. Hume sobre los milagros.Vicente Sanfélix Vidarte & Lidia Tienda Palop - 2018 - Araucaria 20 (40).
    La tesis sostenida por David Hume en su ensayo sobre los milagros, contenida en el capítulo X de su primera Investigación, ha sido objeto continuo de interés. Sus detractores han sostenido que el conjunto del argumento de Hume fracasa. Tras reconstruir los dos argumentos proporcionados por Hume -argumento a priori y argumento a posteriori- proponemos establecer una distinción entre milagrosn y milagros para concluir que el argumento de Hume justifica el escepticismo respecto a estos últimos. En definitiva, el argumento de (...)
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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. Is Hume's Critique of Induction Self‐Defeating?Charles Cassini - 2014 - Heythrop Journal 55 (1).
  17. 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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  18. Exhuming the No-Miracles Argument.Colin Howson - 2013 - Analysis 73 (2):205-211.
    The No-Miracles Argument has a natural representation as a probabilistic argument. As such, it commits the base-rate fallacy. In this article, I argue that a recent attempt to show that there is still a serviceable version that avoids the base-rate fallacy fails, and with it all realistic hope of resuscitating the argument.
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  19. Earman on Hume on Miracles.Peter Millican - 2013 - In Stewart Duncan & Antonia LoLordo (eds.), Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses. Routledge. pp. 271.
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  20. Defending Humility.Michael W. Austin - 2012 - Philosophia Christi 14 (2):461-470.
    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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  21. 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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  22. Hume on Miracles.Yann Schmitt - 2012 - Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 17 (1):49-71.
    Hume’s chapter “Of Miracles” has been widely discussed, and one issue is that Hume seems to simply beg the question. Hume has a strong but implicit naturalist bias when he argues against the existence of reliable testimony for miracles. In this article, I explain that Hume begs the question, despite what he says about the possibility of miracles occurring. e main point is that he never describes a violation of the laws of nature that could not be explained by scientific (...)
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  23. Jesu Oppstandelse Og Naturloven.Ralph Henk Vaags - 2012 - Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 47 (4):259-269.
    In this article, I defend the possibility of understanding the resurrection of Jesus as an event within the framework of natural laws. In this way, the resurrection is not necessarily contrary to Natural Science or belief in the existence of Natural laws. I offer, at the same time, a critique of one of David Hume's arguments against the belief in miracles.
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  24. On Some Limitations of Humean Disagreement: Miraculous Testimony and Contrary Religions.Paul Dicken - 2011 - Sophia 50 (3):345-355.
    As part of his wider critique of the credibility of miraculous testimony, Hume also offers a rather curious argument as to the mutual detriment of conflicting testimony for the miracles of contrary religious worldviews. Scholarship on this aspect of Hume’s reasoning has debated whether or not the considerations are to be understood as essentially probabilistic, and as to whether or not a probabilistic interpretation of the argument is logically valid. The consensus would appear to offer a positive answer to the (...)
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  25. Misunderstanding Hume’s Argument Against Miracles.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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  26. "Locke's Influence in Hume's Religious Skepticism" of Miracles".Jose R. Maia Neto - 2011 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 52 (124):491-508.
  27. Twenty Questions About Hume's “Of Miracles”.Peter Millican - 2011 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 68:151-192.
    Hume's essay on the credibility of miracle reports has always been controversial, with much debate over how it should be interpreted, let alone assessed. My aim here is to summarise what I take to be the most plausible views on these issues, both interpretative and philosophical, with references to facilitate deeper investigation if desired. The paper is divided into small sections, each headed by a question that provides a focus. Broadly speaking, §§1–3 and §20 are on Hume's general philosophical framework (...)
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  28. Hume's Argument Against Miracles.Tommaso Piazza - 2011 - In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  29. Hume’s Miracles.Paul Warwick - 2011 - Philosophy Now 83:16-17.
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  30. Understanding David Hume’s Argument Against Miracles.Gregory L. Bock - 2010 - Philosophia Christi 12 (2):373-391.
    The proper interpretation of Hume’s argument against miracles in Section 10 of An Inquiry concerning Human Understanding has been heavily debated. In this paper, I argue that Hume’s main argument has the intended conclusion that there can never be a sufficient justification for believing that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimony sufficient to make it a basis for a religion. I also consider and argue against other common readings.
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  31. The Philosophy of Miracles – By David Corner.Brad Kallenberg - 2009 - Modern Theology 25 (4):694-697.
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  32. Interpreting Hume on Miracles.Robert A. Larmer - 2009 - Religious Studies 45 (3):325-338.
    Contemporary commentators on Hume’s essay, "Of Miracles" have increasingly tended to argue that Hume never intended to suggest that testimonial evidence must always be insufficient to justify belief in a miracle. This is in marked contrast to earlier commentators who interpreted Hume as intending to demonstrate that testimonial evidence is incapable in principle of ever establishing rational belief in a miracle. In this article I argue that this traditional interpretation is the correct one.
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  33. Vindicating a Bayesian Approach to Confirming Miracles: A Response to Jordan Howard Sobel's Reading of Hume.John DePoe - 2008 - Philosophia Christi 10 (1):229 - 238.
    This paper defends a Bayesian approach to confirming a miracle against Jordan Howard Sobel’s recent novel interpretation of Hume’s criticisms. In his book, ’Logic and Theism’, Sobel offers an intriguing and original way to apply Hume’s criticisms against the possibility of having sufficient evidence to confirm a miracle. The key idea behind Sobel’s approach is to employ infinitesimal probabilities to neutralize the cumulative effects of positive evidence for any miracle. This paper aims to undermine Sobel’s use of infinitesimal probabilities to (...)
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  34. Religious Experience: An Unguarded Front in Hume’s Account of Miracles.Travis Dumsday - 2008 - 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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  35. Are Miracles Chimerical?Alan Hájek - 2008 - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 1:82-104.
    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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  36. Review Of: Hume, Holism, and Miracles; Hume's Abject Failure; A Defense of Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW]Michael Jacovides - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (1):142-147.
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  37. C. S. Lewis’s Critique of Hume’s “on Miracles”.Robert Larmer - 2008 - Faith and Philosophy 25 (2):154-171.
    In this article I argue that C. S. Lewis is both a perceptive reader and trenchant critic of David Hume’s views on miracle.
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  38. Hume on Miracles: Would It Take a Miracle to Believe in a Miracle?Steven M. Bayne - 2007 - 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’s standard 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 (...)
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  39. Aquinas on Miracles: Some Thoughts.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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  40. 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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  41. A Defence of Hume on Miracles - by Robert J. Fogelin. [REVIEW]J. C. A. Gaskin - 2007 - Philosophical Books 48 (2):166-168.
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  42. Cuda, prawa i hipotezy. Nieprzejednany krytyk Hume'a.Mateusz Oleksy - 2007 - Nowa Krytyka 20.
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  43. Prawa natury, prawa nauki a cuda. Krytyka argumentów Hume'a przeciwko cudom.Andrzej Stępnik - 2007 - Filozofia Nauki 4.
    In the article I consider Hume's arguments against miracles and the notion of miracle. From Hume's perspective, miracles are violations of the laws of nature caused by the supernatural being or beings. In Part I of On Miracles Hume argues that miracles can never be believed by a rational person. In Part II he attempts to demonstrate that there is actually no evidence for a miracle. Using distinction between laws of nature and scientific laws, and the deductive-nomological model of explanation, (...)
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  44. Hume on Miracles: Interpretation and Criticism.James E. Taylor - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (4):611–624.
    Philosophers continue to debate about David Hume’s case against the rationality of belief in miracles. This article clarifies semantic, epistemological, and metaphysical questions addressed in the controversy. It also explains the main premises of Hume’s argument and discusses criticisms of them. The article concludes that one’s evaluation of Hume’s argument will depend on one’s views about (a) the definitions of ’miracle’ and ’natural law’; (b) the type of reasoning one ought to employ to determine the probability that a particular miracle (...)
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  45. The Rejection of Testimony and the Normative Recommendation of Non-Fallacious 'Ad Hominem' Arguments Based on Hume's 'Of Miracles' and Canadian Law.Joel M. Buenting - 2005 - Auslegung 27 (2):1 - 16.
    I have argued for the conclusion that nonfallacious ’ad hominem’ arguments are desirable and to commit them is to commit acts of intellectual responsibility. Arguing against a person, when legitimate, is the prerogative of any rational being. Hume commits himself to the argument and commits himself to it only as a judicious inquisitor responsible for the veracity of his own beliefs. The desirability of nonfallacious ’ad hominem’ ’attacks’ is clear from their extensive use and rhetorical power in courts of law. (...)
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  46. A Defense of Hume on Miracles.Richard Otte - 2005 - Hume Studies 31 (1):165-168.
    In The Miracle of Theism Mackie attempts to defend Hume's argument concerning the rationality of accepting a miracle on the basis of testimony. He does this by first offering a precise account of what miracles and laws of nature are, and then by claiming that this implies that any evidence for a law of nature is also evidence against the miracle occurring. I argue that Mackie has committed a simple logical fallacy. Given Mackie's account of miracles and laws of nature, (...)
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  47. Miracles, Historical Testimonies, and Probabilities.Aviezer Tucker - 2005 - History and Theory 44 (3):373–390.
    The topic and methods of David Hume’s "Of Miracles" resemble his historiographical more than his philosophical works. Unfortunately, Hume and his critics and apologists have shared the prescientific, indeed ahistorical, limitations of Hume’s original historical investigations. I demonstrate the advantages of the critical methodological approach to testimonies, developed initially by German biblical critics in the late eighteenth century, to a priori discussions of miracles. Any future discussion of miracles and Hume must use the critical method to improve the quality and (...)
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  48. Of Miracles and Evidential Probability: Hume’s “Abject Failure” Vindicated.William L. Vanderburgh - 2005 - Hume Studies 31 (1):37-61.
    This paper defends David Hume's "Of Miracles" from John Earman's (2000) Bayesian attack by showing that Earman misrepresents Hume's argument against believing in miracles and misunderstands Hume's epistemology of probable belief. It argues, moreover, that Hume's account of evidence is fundamentally non-mathematical and thus cannot be properly represented in a Bayesian framework. Hume's account of probability is show to be consistent with a long and laudable tradition of evidential reasoning going back to ancient Roman law.
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  49. 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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  50. Robert J. Fogelin, A Defense of Hume on Miracles. [REVIEW]Dan O'brien - 2004 - Philosophy in Review 24:100-102.
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