Humes criticisms

October 23, 2009


I was browsing through Russle and saw that it mentions a lot of the topics i covered in my Philosophy and Ethics A level. A lot of you said the Plato blog was useful, so I've decided to blog about Hume -seen as we just read about him in chapter 17. Locke heavily influenced Humes writing too, as did Berkley and Butler, which may make this more applicable, along with the strong theme of religion running throughout the book. Hopefully this will give you some key criticisms to some of the religious writings from philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Marx and Kant on miracles, the nature of God, the creation argument, the afterlife, free will and the problem of evil, which may come in use as we read more of the book.



Miracles are claimed to be happening all the time; you just need to pick up a newspaper to see thousands of stories about 'miracle' drugs being discovered, 'miracle' babies being born and 'miracle' escapes from near death experiences. But what is the definition of a miracle, and do they happen? Hume believed that there could be a possibility that miracles do happen, but came up with many arguments to suggest that a miracle has never occurred.

The press seems to use the term miracle rather loosely, describing such things as a last minuet football goal as a miraculous event.Wikipedia describes a miracle as 'a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can be attempted to be explained by divine intervention'. Christians believe that it is simply God bending the rules of nature to help his creation. Hume argues that miracles seem only to occur when societies are in depressing or desperate times, which suggests that miracles are thought up to give hope to societies in venerable positions.

Much research has been done to find out if miracles actually do happen today, or if they ever happened at all. 2000 years ago it was said that Jesus performed miracles, healing the blind, walking on water and turning water into wine, but where they just clever tricks? The blind could of been actors, the water could of been frozen and the water could of easily been dyed by the red clay pots it was stored in. Even in the modern day people claim they have experienced miracles, from claims such as just an awareness of God and seeing a white light to answers of prayer. Hume questions those who claim they have seen a miracle, as he says they have a good reason to lie about experiencing a miracle because of the fame and benefit their religion experiences. however, each religion states many different miracles occured, many of which contradict each other; which one is to be believed, if any?

Hume also questions the reason behind the miracle. If miracles do accrue and God is helping us, then why did God create Evil in the world in the first place? Surely if he could intervene and therefor could destroy all evil so there is no need for him to 'help' us in times of suffering? This lead Hume to write about the creation of the world. If God cannot stop evil and suffering in the world, then is he powerful? Or if he can and chooses not to, is God even loving?

Before you can understand Humes views on the Gods nature you need to understand then the most well known and oldest argument for the existence of God, the design argument (teleological argument). The design argument argues that God must exist because of the unique and complex design of the world. This argument states that everything is too complex, beautiful and perfectly designed -with unique purposes that link to everything else in existence together (think of the food chain, for example), and that it could not just of come into existence randomly. It is believed that God is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) and therefor has the power to create everything in existence. In essence, God therefor exists as the creator as everything could only have one possible reason: God. (nothing else in existence could be powerful or knowledgeable enough to create such a complex existence)
The watchmaker analogy explains this theory better; it states that design requires a designer. It compares everything in existence to a watch. The inner workings of a watch are extremely complex, and rely on a designer to design every single mechanical part perfectly for the watch to work at all.
Hume believes that the argument is weak and points out flaws in the human concept of Gods nature. The main criticism against the design argument is the creation of evil in the world; if God created everything, then why would he create evil and suffering? Our opinion of God is a perfect being, but surely a perfect, all loving, all knowing and all powerful God wouldn't allow his creation to suffer?
The creation of evil may not disprove God as a creator, but it certainly disproves God as omnibevolenet(all loving).

The creation of evil may have a positive side, however. Christians argue against Humes point that evil (which results to suffering) is necessary in the world as without it humanity wouldn't have free will. The presence of evil in the world gives humanity the choice of living a good life and getting into heaven in the after life, and living a sinful life and being eternally punished after death. Without Evil we have no freewill, and therefor cannot choose to live a good life and be awarded after with an eternal life in heaven.
Hume studied free will and was a compatablist. A compatabalist believes that we have free will, whereas determinists believe the history of the world is fixed in such a way that anything that follows it is already determined by the past. Compatablists believe that to be free you must be free from certain constraints. They believe people make choices through their own unique motivation, personality and preferences.
Hume believed that compatiblism is compatible with determinism, however, as every aspect of your character (which includes motivation, personality and preferences) is already decided before you was born.
Hume believed that God is to blame for any evil doings in the world, as he created evil and is therefor reliable for any suffering which is caused from it. Hume stated that although God may of created evil in order to judge us for the after life, he has to take some blame for our actions too. Hume believed it was as if God was deliberately trying to tempt us to sin as we are specifically designed as imperfect -with the temptation of evil around us, it is unfair to blame humanity solely for sinning.