Nautilus

A Treatise on Miracles by History’s Most Famous Atheist

The Scottish philosopher David Hume was in many ways an enemy of the unlikely. The quintessential empiricist of his age, Hume’s 1748 treatise, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, put forward the groundbreaking argument that careful reasoning on the basis of sensory experience is the only true ground of knowledge. In doing so, he called into question the validity of many improbable claims advanced in religious texts, folklore, and historical accounts of times past and lands far away.

In this short excerpt from a section of the treatise, titled “Of Miracles,” Hume proffers what he takes to be an ingenious method for discerning whether reports of

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus5 min read
Why Campaigns to Change Language Often Backfire
In the first decades of the 20th century, people around the world began succumbing to an entirely new cause of mortality. These new deaths, due to the dangers of the automobile, soon became accepted as a lamentable but normal part of modern life. A h
Nautilus7 min read
Why We’re Drawn Into Darkness: Author Robert MacFarlane on the awe and horror of subterranean places.
Robert Macfarlane grew up obsessed twith climbing mountains and nearly died on several occasions as he scaled some of the world’s high peaks. He found a safer way to indulge his alpine passions, writing about the mystique of mountains. As someone dra
Nautilus6 min readSociety
How Freedom Divides: An expert on animal societies on what sets human societies apart.
As a biologist who studies animal behavior, particularly the long-term stability of the societies of different species, our own included, I’ve traveled through diverse cultures around the world. The word I hear everywhere I go, a badge of honor to al