Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume

Overview

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? David Hume argued that no reasonable person should do anything of the kind. Many religiously skeptical philosophers agree with him, and have both developed and defended his reasoning, while some theologians concur or offer other reasons why those who are believers in God should also refuse to accept accounts of miracles ...
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Overview

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? David Hume argued that no reasonable person should do anything of the kind. Many religiously skeptical philosophers agree with him, and have both developed and defended his reasoning, while some theologians concur or offer other reasons why those who are believers in God should also refuse to accept accounts of miracles as accurate reportage. This book argues to the contrary. Miracle stories can and may have apologetic value, may contribute towards the reasonableness of belief in God, while appropriately attested miracles may be accepted by believers in God. 'But', it may be insisted, 'scientists and historians, and all of us who want to believe rightly, judiciously, and justifiably, must assume that natural laws always hold, or else epistemic anarchy looms'. Epistemological responses to these worries are forthcoming in this study, and the variously inadequate attitudes of leading twentieth century theologians are repaired where repair is possible. The discussion yields reasons for a fuller integration of theology with the other sciences than is common. These issues have a long history. So the book begins with a careful exposition in their own terms of the views of principal relevant thinkers; this contributes to the history of ideas, as well as presenting essential resources for the argumentative and evaluative study which follows.
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Editorial Reviews

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"...will be of value to those seeking a synthesis of the intellectual history of the modern debate over miracles and to those philosophers and theologians for whom the debate is still important." The Journal of Religion

"A thought provoking study that could challenge an open minded skeptic." The Reader's Review

"...this book has reopened a debate that has been considered closed for many years, and the author's attempts to refute the Humean add a valuable chapter to the discussion of the role of evidence and belief in historical, scientific, theological, and epistemological contexts" Choice

"Houston's vigorous study makes a contribution to the ever-growing body of Hume-literature and to the never-ending debate about the validity of his argument." Colin Brown, Calvin Theological Journal

"This careful study, thorough in both critical analysis and constructive proposal, deserves the attention of all philosophers of religion and of all traditional theists who would arm themselves against one of their most devstating critics." Nigel Biggar, Religious Studies Review

"...the book is an indispensible resource for anyone considering the issue of the status of miracle reports. Contemporary theological literature is enhanced by Houston's accounts of older authors which give adequate detial to enable their viewpoints about miracles to be properly grasped. The value of the book is increased furthur by the fact that it traces and discusses significant relationships between Hume's case and the assumptions and methods of contemporary scientists, historians, and theologians (5)." Martin Hanna, Seminary Studies

"This book impresses because of its unusual combination of theological and philosophical sophistication.... ...I recommend this book to anyone who is disturbed by the Humean position and the repetitive praise it receives. ...detailed observations in it are well worth the read." Terence Penelhum, International Studies in Philosophy

"Joseph Houston's book is a fine contribution to the philosophical investigation of the value of miracle reports for religious apologetics...rich in theological and biblical sources. Houston's reasoning throughout is careful and subtle....I definitely recommend this book for any philosopher, theologian, or student of philosophy interested in the nature of miracles and their possible use in the justification of religious belief." Linda Zagzebski, The Philosophical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521043977
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/22/2007
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Augustine on the miraculous; 2. Aquinas on the miraculous; 3. Locke on the miraculous; 4. Hume on the miraculous; 5. Bradley and Troeltsch on the miraculous; 6. The concept of a miracle - 1; 7. The concept of a miracle - 2; 8. Hume's case - preamble to assessment; 9. Hume's case tested - 1; 10. Hume's case tested - 2; 11. Reported miracles and epistemology; 12. Reported miracles in theology; Bibliography; Index.
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