Apr 26: David Hume and the Miracles

I should note that I tried doing this project in 2000, when these volumes first moved from my parents' upstairs hall to my upstairs hall, and I said the hell with it after about five weeks. Why am I so much more successful this time? I think there are three reasons. First of all, of course, is that I don't have a day job (as of yet), so I can do my reading first thing in the morning, or any old time.

The other two reasons are technological. One is that I'm blogging about it. This makes the project quasi-public (in that my parents know about it) and so I have to be responsible even when I'd rather just drink beer and watch hockey, which is what I'm going to do once I finish writing this.

And the other is Wikipedia. Sometimes, the timeless, important authors that I have to read are people I've never heard of. Often -- indeed generally -- even if I have heard of these timeless, important authors, their fascinating, immortal works are completely unknown to me. But now I have an easy resource to prep myself, or just to turn to when I can't make heads or tails about what I'm reading. Wikipedia's like having an informative, if at times over-garrulous, TA. Although you can make this TA start talking about virtually anything, which is distracting to some people (me).

All of this is prologue to say that today's reading, David Hume on miracles, is far better summarized at its Wikipedia page than I could do. There is one thing I do want to pull out, though:

For first, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts performed in such a public manner and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable: all which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.
This is an anti-democratic argument, it seems to me. It's not aristocratic, exactly, but it is elitist: it requires that men of good sense, education, and learning function as something one could appeal to. In other words, that they think themselves better than everyone else. I just don't see how that's going to fly. David Hume had better not run for public office, is all I'm saying.

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