Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Miracles and violations

  • TIMOTHY PRITCHARD (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The claim that a miracle is a violation of a law of nature has sometimes been used as part of an a priori argument against the possibility of miracle, on the grounds that a violation is conceptually impossible. I criticize these accounts but also suggest that alternative accounts, when phrased in terms of laws of nature, fail to provide adequate conceptual space for miracles. It is not clear what a ‘violation’ of a law of nature might be, but this is not relevant to the question of miracles. In practice, accounts of miracle tend to be phrased in terms of God's act not in terms of laws of nature. Finally, I suggest that the a priori argument reflects an intellectual commitment that is widely held, though wrongly built into the argument itself.

Copyright
Corresponding author
e-mail: timothy.pritchard@kcl.ac.uk
References
Hide All

Notes

1. See Ward K.Believing in miracles’, Zygon, 37 (2002), 741750; Nichols T. L.Miracles in science and theology’, Zygon, 37 (2002), 703715.

2. McKinnon A.“Miracle” and “paradox”’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 4 (1967), 308314.

3. Ibid., 309.

5. Ibid., 312.

6. Ibid., 312f.

7. Ibid., 309.

8. Ibid., 312.

9. Everitt N.The impossibility of miracles’, Religious Studies, 23 (1987), 347349.

10. Ibid., 349.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ahern D. M.Miracles and physical impossibility’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 7 (1977), 7179.

14. Ibid., 74.

15. Walker I.Miracles and violations’, International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion, 13 (1982), 103108.

16. Ibid., 108.

17. N. Smart Philosophers and Religious Truth (London: SCM Press, 1964).

18. R. Swinburne The Concept of Miracle (London: Macmillan, 1970).

19. Ibid., 28.

20. Ibid., 26.

21. Smart Philosophers and Religious Truth, 37.

22. Ibid., 35.

23. Rein A.Repeatable miracles?’, Analysis, 46 (1986), 109112.

24. Robinson G.Miracles’, Ratio, 9 (1967), 155166, 158.

25. Lowe E. J.Sortal terms and natural laws’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 17 (1980), 253260; idem Miracles and laws of nature’, Religious Studies, 23 (1987), 263278.

26. Mumford S.Laws of nature outlawed’, Dialectica, 52 (1998), 83101; idem Normative and natural laws’, Philosophy, 75 (2000), 265282; idem Miracles: metaphysics and modality’, Religious Studies, 37 (2001), 191202.

27. Idem ‘Laws of nature outlawed’, 88.

28. Lowe ‘Sortal terms and natural laws’, 253.

29. See idem ‘Miracles and laws of nature’, 274.

30. Idem ‘Sortal terms and natural laws’, 257.

31. Mumford ‘Normative and natural laws’, 275.

32. See G. E. Hughes and M. J. Cresswell A New Introduction to Modal Logic (London: Routledge, 1996), 43.

33. Mumford ‘Miracles and modality’, 191. Cf. Mavrodes G.Miracles and the laws of nature’, Faith and Philosophy, 2 (1985), 333346, who likewise thinks that a ‘legal’ modality is appropriate for laws of nature.

34. Holland R. F.The miraculous’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 2 (1965), 4351.

35. Swinburne Concept of Miracle, 28f.

36. Lowe ‘Miracles and laws’, 276.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid., 276f.

39. Ibid., 276.

40. Mumford ‘Normative and natural laws’, 279.

41. Idem ‘Miracles and modality’, 192.

42. Idem ‘Normative and natural laws’, 280.

43. Ibid., 278f.

44. Gilman J. E.Reconceiving miracles’, Religious Studies, 25 (1989), 477487, 480.

45. Ibid.

46. W. Alston ‘How to think about divine action’, in B. Hebblethwaite and E. Henderson (eds) Divine Action: Studies inspired by the Philosophical Theology of Austin Farrer (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke, 1990), 51–70, 56. Cf. Clarke S.The supernatural and the miraculous’, Sophia, 46 (2007), 277285, 280: ‘it … seems logically possible that nonnatural entities and beings could intervene in the natural world without violating any particular laws of nature. Therefore, it is possible to make a coherent sense of supernatural intervention in the natural world without invoking violations of laws of nature.’

47. Hughes C.Miracles, laws of nature and causation’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supplementary volume, 66 (1992), 179205, 186.

48. Larmer R.Miracles and the laws of nature’, Dialogue, 24 (1985), 225235.

49. Idem Miracles and conservation laws: a reply to Professor MacGill’, Sophia, 31: 1/2 (1992), 8995, 94.

50. Hughes ‘Miracles’, 185.

51. Ibid., 186.

52. Larmer R.Miracles and criteria’, Sophia, 23: 1 (1984), 410.

53. McKinnon ‘Miracle’, 309.

54. G. Robinson ‘Miracles’.

55. Ibid. 159.

56. I would like to thank Christopher Hughes, and an anonymous referee for this journal whose comments on an earlier draft led to a significant improvement in the paper. The research was originally supported by a postgraduate grant from the (as then) Arts and Humanities Research Board, and by a Jacobsen bursary from the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 262 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.