Water into Wine?

Water into Wine?: An Investigation of the Concept of Miracle

Robert A.H. Larmer
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Water into Wine?
    Book Description:

    The first is that a miracle, understood as an event produced by a transcendent agent overriding the usual course of nature, involves a violation of the laws of nature. Larmer argues that events are explained by reference to both relevant laws and units of mass/energy in the sequences to be explained. He contends that a miracle need not be conceived as involving a violation of natural law, but rather as the creation or annihilation of mass/energy by a transcendent agent. In reply to the objection that this account would violate the first law of thermo-dynamics, he distinguishes two forms of the principle -- one metaphysical, one scientific -- and aruges that a miracle would not violate the principle considered as a scientific law.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6142-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Task of Definition
    (pp. 3-16)

    It is important to be clear on what we mean by a miracle. I shall begin, therefore, by defining the term. Only if we can be clear on what we think a miracle is does it become possible to discuss questions of whether they occur and in what circumstances. A problem we immediately, face however, is that the wordmiracle, like a good many other words, is used in a number of different ways. For my purposes, I shall distinguish between two major uses which I termsubjectiveandobjective. Before attempting any formal definition, I want to say a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Miracles and the Laws of Nature
    (pp. 17-30)

    As I have remarked, miracles are usually at least partially defined as violations of the laws of nature. The consequences of defining them in this way are important. The view that some of nature’s laws must be violated if a transcendent agent overrides the usual course of events has led many philosophers to say that the evidence in favour of a miracle must inevitably conflict with the evidence in favour of the laws of nature. It has led others to go further and suggest that the idea of miracles is a mere pseudoconcept. For example, Flew has suggested that there...

  6. CHAPTER THREE David Hume and Prior Probability
    (pp. 31-42)

    It is time to consider some philosophical objections to belief in miracles. In this chapter I shall examine David Hume’s famous “balance-of-probabilities” argument found in Part I of his essay “Of Miracles.” I shall be proposing what might be described as the traditional interpretation of Hume’s position. It has been subject to much criticism recently; some preliminary remarks are therefore in order.

    Traditionally, Hume has been taken as putting forth an argument that no amount or quality of testimonial evidence could ever justify the conclusion that a miracle did in fact occur. Antony Flew has challenged this view recently, arguing...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Further Objections to Miracles
    (pp. 43-60)

    Hume’sa prioriargument in Part I of his essay is perhaps the best known criticism of belief in miracles. Other important arguments have been advanced in recent analytical philosophy, however, to show that, for various conceptual and methodological reasons, belief in miracles can never be justified. In this chapter I will examine and assess these arguments.

    Before commenting upon these arguments in detail, I think it is important to mention very briefly an assumption which underlies both Hume’s thinking on miracles and most modern objections to them. It is the assumption that explanation and prediction are logically equivalent; that...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Physicalism and the Conservation of Energy
    (pp. 61-74)

    In chapter two I discussed the relation between miracles and the laws of nature. I argued that, with the possible exception of the Principle of the Conservation of Energy, miracles need not be conceived as violations of the laws of nature. I argued that we must distinguish between what I called the weak form of the Principle, namely the claim that energy is conserved in a causally isolated system, and its strong form, namely the claim that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Miracles, I argued, are consistent with the truth of the weak form of the Principle, but...

  9. CHAPTER SIX World-Views and Falsification
    (pp. 75-92)

    The thrust of my last few chapters has been to argue that philosophical objections to miracles usually assume the very thing they need to prove. They implicitly assume that physicalism is true and that there exists only one legitimate type of explanation. On this account, the force they might otherwise have is largely vitiated.

    However, it will scarcely do for the believer to leave the matter thus. To remove objections is not at all to establish grounds for belief. The physicalist can justifiably demand that the believer provide some positive grounds for belief in miracles. What this must amount to,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Miracles and Evidence
    (pp. 93-110)

    In the preceding chapter I argued that those who defend belief in miracles must do so within the context of a theistic world-view. I also argued that, contrary to a good deal of contemporary thinking, world-views are falsifiable. Neither the fact that there exist no privileged analytic truths connecting the language of evidence with the language of theory nor the fact that a world-view may be made consistent with any body of evidence, provided we are prepared to indulge in enoughad hoctinkering, implies that world-views cannot be falsified. Although it is difficult to specify an event or set...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Miracles and Apologetics
    (pp. 111-130)

    In this final chapter I wish to discuss the issue of miracles and their apologetic significance. Since I am a Christian and persuaded of the truth of my beliefs, my remarks will bear most directly on the concerns of the Christian apologist.

    The argument that miracles help to establish the truth of theism in general and Christianity in particular was once very popular. Indeed, the debate surrounding it was a dominant feature of English intellectual life early in the eighteenth century, when “almost every English theologian, philosopher, or even simply man of letters … made some contribution to it.”¹ Interestingly,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 131-142)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 143-150)
  14. Index
    (pp. 151-155)