<!DOCTYPE html><HTML lang="en"> <head><meta charset="utf-8"> <title>Swinburne (Richard) - Review of John Earman's 'Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles' (Theo Todman's Book Collection - Paper Abstracts) </title> <link href="../../TheosStyle.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"><link rel="shortcut icon" href="../../TT_ICO.png" /></head> <BODY> <CENTER> <div id="header"><HR><h1>Theo Todman's Web Page - Paper Abstracts</h1><HR></div><A name="Top"></A> <TABLE class = "Bridge" WIDTH=950> <tr><th><A HREF = "../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_04/PaperSummary_4304.htm">Review of John Earman's 'Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles'</A></th></tr> <tr><th><A HREF = "../../Authors/S/Author_Swinburne (Richard).htm">Swinburne (Richard)</a></th></tr> <tr><th>Source: Mind - 111/441 (January 2002)</th></tr> <tr><th>Paper - Abstract</th></tr> </TABLE> </CENTER> <P><CENTER><TABLE class = "Bridge" WIDTH=600><tr><td><A HREF = "../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_04/PaperSummary_4304.htm">Paper Summary</A></td><td><A HREF = "../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_04/PaperCitings_4304.htm">Books / Papers Citing this Paper</A></td><td><A HREF="#ColourConventions">Text Colour-Conventions</a></td></tr></TABLE></CENTER></P> <hr><P><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><u><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_P4304_1">Notes</A></U><SUB>1</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_P4304_1"></A></u><ol type="1"><li>Swinburne broadly agrees with Earman s essay in Part I (<a name="1"></a>"<A HREF = "../../Abstracts/Abstract_09/Abstract_9440.htm">Earman (John) - Hume on Miracles</A>") that <a name="2"></a>"<A HREF = "../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_09/PaperSummary_9378.htm">Hume (David) - Of Miracles</A>"  <FONT COLOR = "800080">is a largely unoriginal and really poor piece of philosophical reasoning. Not merely so, but Hume had no excuse for not doing better. For Hume makes sweeping statements about probability, entirely ignoring the more sophisticated work on probability being done in his day, especially by Richard Price </FONT>.</li><li>Swinburne helpfully divides up Part II as <FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="i"><li> General pieces about the epistemology of testimony (Locke), </li><li>Contributions to the eighteenth-century debate about the Resurrection (such as Sherlock and Annet), </li><li>Responses to Hume (Campbell), and </li><li>More detailed work on the probabilistic principles involved in the assessment of testimony (Price and Laplace). </li><li>They end with Babbage's brilliant (though not fully clear) demonstration that 'it is always possible to assign a number of independent witnesses, the improbability of the falsehood of whose concurring testimonies shall be <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_P4304_2">greater than that of the improbability of the miracle</A></U><SUB>2</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_P4304_2"></A> .</ol></FONT></li><li>The latter claim is supported by a rather simplistic model that shows that even if an event is of probability 10<sup>-12</sup>, it can be reasonable to believe it on the <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_P4304_3">testimony of 11 independent witnesses</A></U><SUB>3</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_P4304_3"></A> who are 99% reliable. </li><li>Swinburne agrees that Hume vacillates between two claims about the (im)possibility of the violation of a law of nature:- <FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="i"><li> Claiming that there cannot be strong enough testimony to probabilify the occurrence of a violation, or at any rate testimony strong enough thereby to probabilify a religious doctrine, and </li><li>Claiming that there has not been so far in human history strong enough testimony to probabilify such an occurrence. </ol></FONT></li><li>What Swinburne personally found most valuable about the book was:- <FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="i"><li> The details of the historical context,</li><li>The discussion on Bayesian principles of the extent to which the improbability of an event requires stronger testimony to overcome it, </li><li>The clarification of Babbage's result about the force of multiple testimony to an improbable event, and </li><li>The extension of this discussion to the force of multiple testimony to different improbable events. </ol></FONT></li><li>Swinburne notes that  <FONT COLOR = "800080">Many people who make honest and accurate reports on a certain proportion of occasions are very much less likely to make such reports in certain circumstances: They are much less likely to report <ol type="i"><li>Accurately when they believe that they are perceiving something which they very much want to be true; or </li><li>Truthfully, when they have a deep personal interest in people not knowing what really happened. </ol></FONT> </li><li>However, Swinburne claims that things are often round the other way:- <FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="i"><li> Some people who do not normally observe goings-on very closely may do so when it seems that they are perceiving something of deep metaphysical significance. And </li><li>Some people may have a deep personal interest in others believing that a miracle occurred while not wishing for the publicity and contumely which would result from their reporting. </ol></FONT> </li><li>There are important discussions of whether  in our society  people would report, or admit to having seen, a miracle if they saw one, given the secular climate. Swinburne claims that  <FONT COLOR = "800080">the probability of someone saying that they had witnessed a miracle when they believed they had not done so but were liable to be crucified (literally) for saying that they had, must be very small indeed; and that, of course, was the situation of some of the first Christians.</FONT> . My view is that the situation is much more complicated, <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_P4304_4">both then and now</A></U><SUB>4</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_P4304_4"></A>. </li><li></li><li></li><li>The review ends with the demonstration that  <FONT COLOR = "800080">the extremely improbable does sometimes happen.</FONT> : the usually-reliable Earman has misinterpreted Swinburne, who <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_P4304_5">still believes that</A></U><SUB>5</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_P4304_5"></A>  </FONT>it seems not unnatural to say that a purported law is no less a law for there being a non-repeatable exception to it; and then to describe the exception as a  violation of the law . </FONT> </li></ol><hr><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><B>Comment: </B><BR><BR>Review of <a name="3"></a>"<A HREF = "../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_00/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_736.htm">Earman (John) - Hume's Abject Failure - The Argument Against Miracles</A>".<BR><BR><HR><BR><U><B>In-Page Footnotes</U></B><a name="On-Page_Link_P4304_1"></A><BR><BR><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_P4304_1"><B>Footnote 1</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>This is just a brief file-note. I intend to return to this matter in more detail later. </li></ul> <a name="On-Page_Link_P4304_2"></A><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_P4304_2"><B>Footnote 2</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>So, this is in flat contradiction of Hume. </li></ul> <a name="On-Page_Link_P4304_3"></A><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_P4304_3"><B>Footnote 3</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>Doh! I can t see why this wouldn t have a probability of error of 10<sup>-22</sup>. </li><li>Read the text in Earman! </li></ul> <a name="On-Page_Link_P4304_4"></A><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_P4304_4"><B>Footnote 4</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>People have always been keen to report events that comport with their beliefs, whatever reputational risk is involved  witness contemporary people happy to claim being abducted by aliens. </li><li>It s not clear that the disciples were  simply by believing and reporting the resurrection of Jesus  at risk of anything much  that came from their actions in the light of that belief. </li></ul> <a name="On-Page_Link_P4304_5"></A><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_P4304_5"><B>Footnote 5</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>I don t know whether the claim about  purported laws , or its rejection, is of any importance in this context </li></ul> <FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR></P><a name="ColourConventions"></a><p><b>Text Colour Conventions (see <A HREF="../../Notes/Notes_10/Notes_1025.htm">disclaimer</a>)</b></p><OL TYPE="1"><LI><FONT COLOR = "0000FF">Blue</FONT>: Text by me; &copy; Theo Todman, 2018</li><LI><FONT COLOR = "800080">Mauve</FONT>: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); &copy; the author(s)</li></OL> <BR><HR><BR><CENTER> <TABLE class = "Bridge" WIDTH=950> <TR><TD WIDTH="30%">&copy; Theo Todman, June 2007 - August 2018.</TD> <TD WIDTH="40%">Please address any comments on this page to <A HREF="mailto:theo@theotodman.com">theo@theotodman.com</A>.</TD> <TD WIDTH="30%">File output: <time datetime="2018-08-02T06:18" pubdate>02/08/2018 06:18:55</time> <br><A HREF="../../Notes/Notes_10/Notes_1010.htm">Website Maintenance Dashboard</A></TD></TR> <TD WIDTH="30%"><A HREF="#Top">Return to Top of this Page</A></TD> <TD WIDTH="40%"><A HREF="../../Notes/Notes_11/Notes_1140.htm">Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page</A></TD> <TD WIDTH="30%"><A HREF="../../index.htm">Return to Theo Todman's Home Page</A></TD> </TR></TABLE></CENTER><HR> </BODY> </HTML>