A Kuhnian critique of Hume on miracles
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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, that the argument applies only to the first definition of ‘miracle’ that Hume offers (i.e. ‘miracle’ as a “violation of the laws of nature.”) Second, it argues that we are sometimes rationally justified in believing testimony for scientific anomalies (that conflict with the corresponding paradigm theory), because there have been several cases of scientists accepting such anomalies and—assuming certain criteria are met—we are rationally justified in believing these scientists. If both arguments are successful, then it is possible to be rationally justified in believing miracle-testimony, though the extent of justification depends on various criteria and comes in degrees. After examining a few objections, the paper concludes by contextualizing this argument in relation to Part II of Hume’s essay and in relation to broader apologetic concerns. In short, it is vital to recognize that this paper’s focus is Hume’s first account of ‘miracle,’ rather than his argument against miracle-testimony more broadly, but the argument could be coupled with other arguments against Hume’s broader attack on miracle-testimony.
KeywordsDavid Hume Thomas Kuhn Miracle Miracles Anomaly Anomalies
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