University of Tasmania
whole_HenriStuartJames1983_thesis.pdf (7.72 MB)

The interventionist concept of miracle and the possibility of miracles

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posted on 2023-05-26, 19:57 authored by Henri, SJ
In this thesis I investigate the interventionist concept of miracle and the most serious objections to this concept. In the first chapter I introduce the topic and in Chapter Two I critically analyse D. Hume's attack upon the evidential value of claims about purported miracles. Hume's critique is the more significant since he was the first significant philosopher to define a miracle as a violation of a law of nature. After lengthy analysis I conclude that Hume's attack fails. In Chapter Three I analyse the charge that the fundamentals of historical enquiry rule out the possibility of our knowing that an alleged miracle has occurred. My analysis concentrates on the major attacks made by Flew and Van Harvey and the various rebuttals offered by their critics. I argue that the fundamentals of historical enquiry do not in fact rule out, either epistemically or psychologically, the possibility of miracles. In Chapter Four I continue the debate begun in Chapter Three by focussing on the claim that there is no natural, as opposed to revealed, way of distinguishing between a violation and a falsification of a law of nature. On the prior assumption that such a distinction makes sense I find that the argument fails. In Chapter Five I drop the assumption that the interventionist concept is coherent and take up a number of challenges to its logical coherence. In Chapter Six I continue this line by investigating the attacks from science on the coherence of the violation model. In this chapter I note that refinement to the traditional violation model is required if it is to withstand some of these major criticisms. In this chapter I also consider the possibility of rejecting the violation model in favour of a non-violation interventionist model. I conclude that the violation model is the more acceptable but note that it requires further refinement. In Chapter Seven I move away temporarily from the conceptual and epistemic appropriateness of defining a miracle as a violation of a law of nature and investigate the distinction between a violation of a law of nature and a miracle. In particular I look at the importance of the causal role of God; the sign structure of the event and its religious setting. I conclude that a miracle is in fact a complex mesh of elements bringing together the scientific and the religious. To define a miracle as a violation without giving due reference to religious factors is insufficient. In the final chapter I tie up a number of loose ends. I argue that a distinction should be made between the laws of science and the laws of nature and that a miracle is not a physically impossible event but rather a scientifically inexplicable event. I conclude by offering the following definition of miracle. A miracle is a violation of a law of science brought about by the primary action of God, occurring in religious context as a divine sign.


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Copyright 1981 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1983. Bibliography: l. 202-211

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