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

Nautilus4 min readScience
Mind the Gap Between Science and Religion
Have you heard that we may be living in a computer simulation? Or that our universe is only one of infinitely many parallel worlds in which you live every possible variation of your life? Or that the laws of nature derive from a beautiful, higher-dim
Nautilus4 min read
A Hologram Shows How Space Could Pop Into Existence: The holographic principle—with a real hologram.
I remember buying my first hologram as a college student in the mid-1980s. It showed a bed of nails. I came across it at a gallery in what was then the world’s capital of spacey trinkets, Haight Street in San Francisco. When I picked it up, the holog
Nautilus8 min readSelf-Improvement
Why Monster Stories Captivate Us: Our brains are compelled by category violations.
I was 13 years old when the movie Alien was released. It scared me into a month-long spell of anxiety. The hair on the back of my neck was perpetually up and I had the jittery demeanor of a combat veteran. While the full-grown xenomorph alien was chi