A novice, I do not feel prepared yet to, but shall in future, read Hume; please tell me if Hume's originals answer my question.
Source: pp 30-31, Philosophy ; A Very Short Introduction (2002) by Edward Craig.
We receive a report of something – for convenience call it The Event – supposed to be miraculous. So we are asked to believe that The Event occurred, and that this was contrary to a law of nature. For us to have good reason to believe that an event of that kind would have been contrary to a law of nature, it must be contrary to all our experience, and to our best theories of how nature works. But if that is so then we must have very strong reason to believe that The Event did NOT occur – in fact the strongest reason we ever do have for believing anything of that sort.
So what reason do we have on the other side – to believe that it DID occur? Answer: the report – in other words the fact that it is SAID to have occurred.
[1.] Could that possibly be so strong as to
overpower the contrary reasons and win the day for The Event? No, says Hume, it could (in theory) be of equal strength, but never of greater.
There might be such a thing as testimony, given by sufficiently well-placed witnesses, of the right sort of character, under the right sort of circumstances, that as a matter of natural (psychological) law it was bound to be true. But that would only mean that we had our strongest kind of evidence both for The Event and against it, and the rational response would be not belief but bewilderment and indecision.
1 appears too extreme and unconditional; hypothetically, why can reports of an Event never
overpower the contrary reasons and win the day for The Event? For example, imagine a island where all residents excel in philosophy, always are benevolent and tell the truth.
Then their reporting of a miracle CAN overpower?
I ask out of curiosity; realistically, I know that reports cannot be this strong and that my imagined island does not exist.