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Notes on Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - page 4 / 4





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Since liberty and necessity are concerned with different things, there is no reason why it can’t be true both that I am free to act as I do (that is, not constrained) and that I am determined to act as I do (that is, that my actions are causally determined by factors such as my beliefs and desires).

Section 10

1.Hume’s argument against the adequacy of testimonial evidence for miracles

A.Uniform experiences are those that completely favor one belief over its

contraries.  Uniform experiences provide Proof that one event (e.g. heat) will follow another event (e.g. flame).

B.Non-uniform experiences are those that provide evidence both in favor of

and against a certain belief.  Non-uniform experiences support the Probability (to a certain degree) that one event will follow another.

C.Testimonial evidence does not give us a proof of the claim that miracles have occurred.

i.Suppose that we have a proof, in the form of testimonial evidence, that a miracle occurred.

ii.A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.

iii.We have a uniform experience of the world acting in accordance

with the laws of nature.  That is, we have a proof of those laws.

iv.Thus, we have a proof both that a miracle occurred and that no miracle has occurred.

v.We therefore should not believe, on the basis of testimony, that a

miracle has occurred.  Rather, we should withhold belief as to whether a miracle has occurred.

d.Testimonial evidence does not support the probability of the claim that

miracles have occurred.

i.No miracle has been “attested by a sufficient number of men, of

such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves.”

ii.Those who hear of and report miracles are quite credulous.

iii.Miracles, and reports thereof, mainly “abound among ignorant

and barbarous nations.”

iv.Testimony in favor of miracles is “opposed by an infinite number

of witnesses.”

Section 12


1.Hume suggests that we should adopt a Mitigated Skepticism.  This sort of

skeptical attitude includes

A.a healthy skeptical attitude, or an open-mindedness, at the beginning of

inquiries, and

B.limiting our inquiries “to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow

capacity of human understanding.”

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