A Defense of Hume on Miracles

Princeton University Press
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Since its publication in the mid-eighteenth century, Hume's discussion of miracles has been the target of severe and often ill-tempered attacks. In this book, one of our leading historians of philosophy offers a systematic response to these attacks.

Arguing that these criticisms have--from the very start--rested on misreadings, Robert Fogelin begins by providing a narrative of the way Hume's argument actually unfolds. What Hume's critics (and even some of his defenders) have failed to see is that Hume's primary argument depends on fixing the appropriate standards of evaluating testimony presented on behalf of a miracle. Given the definition of a miracle, Hume quite reasonably argues that the standards for evaluating such testimony must be extremely high. Hume then argues that, as a matter of fact, no testimony on behalf of a religious miracle has even come close to meeting the appropriate standards for acceptance. Fogelin illustrates that Hume's critics have consistently misunderstood the structure of this argument--and have saddled Hume with perfectly awful arguments not found in the text. He responds first to some early critics of Hume's argument and then to two recent critics, David Johnson and John Earman. Fogelin's goal, however, is not to "bash the bashers," but rather to show that Hume's treatment of miracles has a coherence, depth, and power that makes it still the best work on the subject.

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About the author

Robert J. Fogelin is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and the Sherman Fairchild Professor in the Humanities at Dartmouth College. His previous books include Wittgenstein, Hume's Skepticism, and Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 25, 2010
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Pages
128
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ISBN
9781400825776
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Epistemology
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Robert J. Fogelin
Why did David Hume feel so deeply about publishing The Dialouges Concerning Natural Religion that he set aside funds in his will providing for its posthumous publication? Part of the answer is that it provided a literary, satirical work responding to his mean-spirited theological critics. In Hume's Presence Robert Fogelin provides a textual analysis that demonstrates the close relationship of The Dialogues with his central philosophical writings and its centrality to his relationship with skepticism. A striking feature of The Dialogues is that Cleanthes and Philo seem well versed in the works of the philosopher David Hume. Their arguments often echo in content--even wording--claims found in Hume's central philosophical writings. Beyond this, the overall dialectical structure of The Dialogues mirrors dialectical developments found in both The Treatise of Human Nature and the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: the naturalistic effort to provide a rational defense of religion ends in weakening religious commitments rather than in strengthening them. Nowhere in The Dialogues does Hume address his readers directly. As a result, it may not immediately be clear whether Hume is expressing his own opinions through one of his characters or is using a character to represent a position he wishes to examine, perhaps to reject. The Dialogues is a contest, and Hume, by not speaking directly in his own voice, leaves it-officially, at least-to his readers to judge who, if anyone, wins. The central problem of The Dialogues is to consider what Hume understood by skepticism. The second section of this book examines competing views of Hume's skepticism, concluding with his own remarks. In the Treatise and the Enquiry, Hume says, when consumed by skeptical arguments and reasoning, he finds philosophical nurture in rejoining the practices of everyday life. His famous, concluding remark in The Dialogues about skepticism being the basis for a believing Christian seems cut from the same cloth.
Robert J. Fogelin
Taking Wittgenstein at His Word is an experiment in reading organized around a central question: What kind of interpretation of Wittgenstein's later philosophy emerges if we adhere strictly to his claims that he is not in the business of presenting and defending philosophical theses and that his only aim is to expose persistent conceptual misunderstandings that lead to deep philosophical perplexities? Robert Fogelin draws out the therapeutic aspects of Wittgenstein's later work by closely examining his account of rule-following and how he applies the idea in the philosophy of mathematics.

The first of the book's two parts focuses on rule-following, Wittgenstein's "paradox of interpretation," and his naturalistic response to this paradox, all of which are persistent and crucial features of his later philosophy. Fogelin offers a corrective to the frequent misunderstanding that the paradox of interpretation is a paradox about meaning, and he emphasizes the importance of Wittgenstein's often undervalued appeals to natural responses. The second half of the book examines how Wittgenstein applies his reflections on rule-following to the status of mathematical propositions, proofs, and objects, leading to remarkable, demystifying results.

Taking Wittgenstein at His Word shows that what Wittgenstein claims to be doing and what he actually does are much closer than is often recognized. In doing so, the book underscores fundamental--but frequently underappreciated--insights about Wittgenstein's later philosophy.

Robert J. Fogelin
Why did David Hume feel so deeply about publishing The Dialouges Concerning Natural Religion that he set aside funds in his will providing for its posthumous publication? Part of the answer is that it provided a literary, satirical work responding to his mean-spirited theological critics. In Hume's Presence Robert Fogelin provides a textual analysis that demonstrates the close relationship of The Dialogues with his central philosophical writings and its centrality to his relationship with skepticism. A striking feature of The Dialogues is that Cleanthes and Philo seem well versed in the works of the philosopher David Hume. Their arguments often echo in content--even wording--claims found in Hume's central philosophical writings. Beyond this, the overall dialectical structure of The Dialogues mirrors dialectical developments found in both The Treatise of Human Nature and the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: the naturalistic effort to provide a rational defense of religion ends in weakening religious commitments rather than in strengthening them. Nowhere in The Dialogues does Hume address his readers directly. As a result, it may not immediately be clear whether Hume is expressing his own opinions through one of his characters or is using a character to represent a position he wishes to examine, perhaps to reject. The Dialogues is a contest, and Hume, by not speaking directly in his own voice, leaves it-officially, at least-to his readers to judge who, if anyone, wins. The central problem of The Dialogues is to consider what Hume understood by skepticism. The second section of this book examines competing views of Hume's skepticism, concluding with his own remarks. In the Treatise and the Enquiry, Hume says, when consumed by skeptical arguments and reasoning, he finds philosophical nurture in rejoining the practices of everyday life. His famous, concluding remark in The Dialogues about skepticism being the basis for a believing Christian seems cut from the same cloth.
Robert J. Fogelin
Why did David Hume feel so deeply about publishing The Dialouges Concerning Natural Religion that he set aside funds in his will providing for its posthumous publication? Part of the answer is that it provided a literary, satirical work responding to his mean-spirited theological critics. In Hume's Presence Robert Fogelin provides a textual analysis that demonstrates the close relationship of The Dialogues with his central philosophical writings and its centrality to his relationship with skepticism. A striking feature of The Dialogues is that Cleanthes and Philo seem well versed in the works of the philosopher David Hume. Their arguments often echo in content--even wording--claims found in Hume's central philosophical writings. Beyond this, the overall dialectical structure of The Dialogues mirrors dialectical developments found in both The Treatise of Human Nature and the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: the naturalistic effort to provide a rational defense of religion ends in weakening religious commitments rather than in strengthening them. Nowhere in The Dialogues does Hume address his readers directly. As a result, it may not immediately be clear whether Hume is expressing his own opinions through one of his characters or is using a character to represent a position he wishes to examine, perhaps to reject. The Dialogues is a contest, and Hume, by not speaking directly in his own voice, leaves it-officially, at least-to his readers to judge who, if anyone, wins. The central problem of The Dialogues is to consider what Hume understood by skepticism. The second section of this book examines competing views of Hume's skepticism, concluding with his own remarks. In the Treatise and the Enquiry, Hume says, when consumed by skeptical arguments and reasoning, he finds philosophical nurture in rejoining the practices of everyday life. His famous, concluding remark in The Dialogues about skepticism being the basis for a believing Christian seems cut from the same cloth.
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