Hume and Wittgenstein on faith and reason in religious belief

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In this paper I explore the authority of faith over reason in the context of Hume’s Of Miracles and Wittgenstein’s later philosophical works. In Of Miracles, David Hume claims to have discovered an ‘everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusions’ and includes miracles (especially when evidenced by testimony) within that category. The problem is obvious: if Christianity is based on the belief that Christ proved his divine mission through performing miracles as accounted in the testimony of the apostles, then Christianity is based on superstitious delusions. But surprisingly, Hume concludes that he is satisfied by his approach because it defends – and not attacks – Christianity. This is because Christianity is built on faith, and those who try to exchange its foundations for reason are either ‘disguised enemies or dangerous friends’ and its them who Hume addresses. Wittgenstein raises similar objections and goes as far as to say that ‘the point is that if there were evidence, this would in fact destroy the whole business’; that life, not facts, educate one to belief in God; and that it would all be superstitious if religion was based upon evidence. This paper closely examines the role of evidence, reason and faith for Hume’s and Wittgenstein’s views about religion, and we will observe two areas of agreement: that religion is not in the business of needing reasonable evidence, and that that is its strength.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2023
EventScience, Faith, and Superstition - Online
Duration: 12 Dec 202312 Dec 2023

Academic conference

Academic conferenceScience, Faith, and Superstition
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  • Hume
  • Wittgenstein
  • religious belief
  • of miracles
  • Philosophy of religion
  • epistemology


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