“Of Miracles” at Work in the Decline and Fall

I. Hume, Gibbon, and Miracles
  • Stephen Paul Foster
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 154)


Hume and Gibbon offended their Christian contemporaries because of what they made—in a largely insinuative, ironical way—of miracles. “Of Miracles” questions the credibility of witnesses to miracles, and chapter fifteen of the Decline and Fall ends with doubts about the historical accounts of the miracles of early Christianity. Donald Livingston’s insightful observations on Hume’s view of society and its roots in his historical consciousness help explain why “Of Miracles” provoked such passionate responses. “The social world, for Hume, is an order of passion and thought, and of the reflective passions and thoughts men have about that order.... The social world, then, will have some sort of narrative unity woven together by the temporally reflective imagination. People are held together not merely by passions unreflectively felt and tenselessly ordered, but by narrative associations, i.e., by the stories they tell about themselves. The legal, moral, social, political, aesthetic, and religious standards that constitute the moral world are the products of narrative associations of ideas, and so are part of some narrative unity. The moral world is a system of stories.”1


Moral Reasoning Christian Religion Original Italic Moral World Philosophic Historian 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Paul Foster
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA

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