Locke on the objective nature of miracles

Southern Journal of Philosophy 61 (3):411-426 (2023)
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Abstract

Locke's definition of miracles in “A Discourse of Miracles” is widely cited by scholars as evidence of his subjectivism on the matter. According to this interpretation, Locke held it to be sufficient that an event seems to be a violation of the laws of nature for it to count as a miracle. Nothing supernatural need actually occur. The principal aim of this article is to argue that Locke can and ought to be read as an objectivist about miracles. A subjectivist reading falls short in two crucial respects: It undermines the function of miracles as evidence for divine revelation, so central to his account, and is at odds with his consistent and explicitly objective use of the term, as an event that necessarily involves a violation of the laws of nature. Indeed, it is from their objective nature that Locke thinks miracles derive their evidential force. A key part of my argument lies in distinguishing between ontological and epistemological issues concerning miracles and demonstrating how this distinction is present throughout his work on the matter. Ultimately, I conclude that what is often interpreted as Locke's subjectivism about miracles is his privileging of these epistemic issues.

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Citations of this work

Locke on Reason, Revelation, and Miracles.Nathan Rockwood - 2021 - In Jessica Gordon-Roth & Shelley Weinberg (eds.), The Lockean Mind. New York, NY: Routledge.

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References found in this work

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Lockean Essentialism and the Possibility of Miracles.Nathan Rockwood - 2018 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (2):293-310.
Locke’s Miracle Mistake.Robert Larmer - 2022 - Sophia 61 (4):727-736.

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