Historical Evidence

  • Richard Swinburne
Part of the New Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (NSPR)


The claim of the last chapter was that we could have good reason to suppose that an event E, if it occurred, was a violation of a law of nature L. But could one have good evidence that such an event E occurred? At this point we must face the force of Hume’s own argument. This, it will be remembered, runs as follows. The evidence, which ex hypothesi is good evidence, that L is a law of nature is evidence that E did not occur. We have certain other evidence that E did occur. In such circumstances, writes Hume, the wise man ‘weighs the opposite experiments. He considers which side is supported by the greater number of experiments’ ([11] p. 111). Since he supposes that the evidence that E occurred would be that of testimony, Hume concludes ‘that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish’ ([11] pp. 115 f.). Flew, it will be remembered, went further and claimed that because of the ‘nature of the propositions concerned’ ([16] p. 208) the evidence never could be that strong. In order to assess the worth of this claim we must digress and see in general how historical evidence is weighed.


Historical Evidence Physical Thing Fourth Kind Evidence Class Minor Principle 
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Copyright information

© Richard Swinburne 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Swinburne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HullUK

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