Friday, October 30, 2009

David Hume

Those of you who do know this important figure in the area of philosophy probably know him as the man who attacked the claim to miracles.

The problem I found with his attack on miracles is that it doesn't fit with his own philosophy.

David Hume was the most extreme of the British empiricists. Empiricists view that all we can know is what is derived from sense impression. Basically this means we can't even know that physical objects exist, because all we know is the different qualities we see. Anything not based on a sense impression is meaningless.

Hume argued that even science was meaningless because it was based off of feelings. The argument is fairly complex and somewhat hard to summarize. Basically, we relate our sense impressions to one another in three different ways. There is no reason to do this (says Hume) apart from a very strong feeling. We relate impressions with regard to similarity, spatial nearness, and cause and effect. Hume then goes on to argue that, based on his theory of empiricism, that there is no way we can relate something as a cause and another thing as an effect. It isn't possible in his extreme empiricism. We have no way of knowing whether a burn will form on our finger from a lit match being touched to it. It may have happened every time before, but there is no guarantee it will happen again. (Seems pretty crazy, doesn't it?)

Now, we move on to his argument against miracles, which he says are not possible because in all of human experience over centuries, we have never seen a dead man come back to life.

Now go and read that last sentence again, and try to figure out the inconsistency.

Hume argues against miracles using a cause and effect relationship, something he claims is impossible to use. He is arguing against miracles using something he claims he doesn't even believe in. His argument doesn't work. If Hume were to remain consistent with his attack, he'd have to say there are no miracles because there are no natural laws, thus there was nothing to be broken.

Hume is an author the Christian really has to wrestle with, considering his philosophy is used by many to reject God.

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