Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Campbell on Two Kinds of Miracles

There are two kinds of miracles, to which Mr Hume hath alluded in a note, tho' he does not directly make the distinction. One is, when the event, consider'd by itself, is evidently preternatural. Of this kind are the raising of the dead, walking on water, making whole the maimed; for by no natural causes can these effectes be produced. The other kind is, when the event consider'd by itself, is natural, that is, may be produced by natural causes, but is denominated miraculous, on account of the manner. That a sick person should be restor'd to health, is not, when consider'd singly, preternatural; but that health should be restor'd by the command of a man undoubtedly is.

George Campbell, Dissertation on Miracles II.5 (1st edition, p. 232). This distinction is a fairly common one, although what Campbell calls 'preternatural' is usually called 'supernatural', and what he calls 'natural' is usually called 'preternatural'. There is sometimes another category added, counternatural, but this is distinguished primarily because it requires a different explanation than most supernatural miracles, with which it can be classified for most other purposes. I discussed these classifications briefly here.

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