Friday, September 01, 2017

Adams on Miracles and the Uniformity of Nature

...experience teacheth us that lead and iron are heavier than water: but a man, by projecting these heavy bodies, may make them swim in water, or fly in air. Should the same be done by any invisible power, it would be a miracle. But the uniformity of nature is no more disturbed in this case than the former: nor is the general experience, which witnesses to the superior gravity of these bodies, any proof that they may not be raised in air and water by some invisible agent, as well as by the power of man.

William Adams, An Essay in Answer to Hume's Essay on Miracles (1767), pp. 17-18. Hume tended to dismiss his critics out of hand, but he seems to have had a certain amount of respect for Adams's criticism, although apparently was not convinced by it. The reason seems to have been Adams's very civil tone and approach. The quality of the critique is also good; it is not as brilliant or rigorous as some of the later criticisms, George Campbell's or Lady Mary Shepherd's, but it is perhaps the earliest critique to identify in a clear way some of the major problems with Hume's essay that will recur in the history of criticism of the work.

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