Monday, December 21, 2009

Hume's Abject Failure? Millican's Reply to Earman

In Hume's Abject Failure, John Earman offered a book-length critique of Hume's case against justified (testimony-based) belief in miracles. Peter Millican (Hertford College, Oxford) has offered a careful reply. Here is the link, and here is the abstract:

The centrepiece of Earman’s provocatively titled book Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument against Miracles (OUP, 2000) is a probabilistic interpretation of Hume’s famous ‘maxim’ concerning the credibility of miracle reports, followed by a trenchant critique of the maxim when thus interpreted. He argues that the first part of this maxim, once its obscurity is removed, is simply trivial, while the second part is nonsensical. His subsequent discussion culminates with a forthright challenge to any would-be defender of Hume to ‘point to some thesis which is both philosophically interesting and which Hume has made plausible’. My main aim here is to answer this challenge, by demonstrating a preferable interpretation of Hume’s maxim, according to which its first half is both plausible and non-trivial, while its second half sketches a useful, albeit approximate, corollary. I conclude by contesting Earman’s negative views on the originality and philosophical significance of Hume’s justly famous essay.

It's perhaps worth noting that Millican is currently the co-editor of the journal, Hume Studies.

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