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

Nautilus8 min readScience
Can New Species Evolve From Cancers? Maybe.
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Aggressive cancers can spread so fiercely that they seem less like tissues gone wrong and more like invasive parasites looking to consume and then break free of their host. If a wild
Nautilus6 min read
Butterfly Wonk Robert Pyle Pens His First Novel 44 Years in the Making
Last year marked a first for 71-year old Robert Michael Pyle, the acclaimed author, naturalist, and ecologist: the publication of his long-awaited first novel, Magdalena Mountain, nearly half a century in the making. Pyle has been investigating the b
Nautilus15 min read
How American Tycoons Created the Dinosaur: The story of dinosaurs is also the story of capitalism.
The dinosaur is a chimera. Some parts of this complex assemblage are the result of biological evolution. But others are products of human ingenuity, constructed by artists, scientists, and technicians in a laborious process that stretches from the di