Philosophy 43811

First Paper -- Due Wednesday, February 24

The paper will be 6-7 pages in length, double spaced and in an 11-point or 12-point proportional font. 
The paper is due on February 24 at 11:59pm, submitted as an attachment (in .doc or .docx format) to an email sent to

Your first writing assignment will be to bring Hume and Chesterton into dialogue, as we say, on miracles.

The first half of your paper should focus on Hume's treatment of miracles in Section X of Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Here Hume argues against the possibility of miracles, or at least against the reasonableness of ever believing in a miracle.  (In the end, he does not exactly condemn Christians for believing in miracles, as long as they realize that their Faith is completely irrational and unreasonable. At the end of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Philo claims in effect that it is the very unreasonability of faith that makes it praiseworthy in God's eyes!) Your job in this part of the paper is to lay out clearly and succinctly the main elements of Hume's argument in both Part I and Part II.  This will take some doing.  Hume's prose is a bit daunting, and you will have to read the piece several times to be in a position to summarize his view accurately.

Then look carefully at the various places in Orthodoxy where Chesterton addresses the occurrence of miracles (or, as he sometimes puts it, "the occurrence of the supernatural") and the reasonableness of believing in miracles.  The relevant texts are scattered throughout the book -- and so you should note all the relevant places while you are reading the text for class -- but two especially prominent places are in Chapter 8 (pp.133-135) and Chapter 9 (pp.156-161).

Chesterton does not explicitly cite Hume in Orthodoxy.  But it is clear that his remarks about miracles are meant as a response to exactly the sort of arguments about miracles given by Hume.  So the second half of your paper should address the question of whether the points Chesterton makes about the miraculous are effective against Hume's arguments. Explain why or why not in each case.  In order to do this well, you will have to identify Chesterton's main points, put them into some order, and then assess their effectiveness against Hume's arguments.