Hi. So, my name's Allan Hazlett and this week, we're going to be talking about testimony and the question of whether and, and in what circumstances you can believe what other people tell you. And we're going to talk about this the way people were talking about this issue during the enlightenment. So, the enlightenment is a term that historians use to refer to a period in European intellectual history roughly 1700 to 1800. So, people are, talk about what's distinctive of the Enlightenment. Some people would say, reason, liberal democracy, science, these are on the rise. Religion and monarchy, these are kind of fading out of popularity. What I want to talk about this week is an ideal or a virtue that contemporary philosophers call intellectual autonomy. I want to talk about how this notion of intellectual autonomy plays out in the thinking of some of the big names in, in the Enlightenment, and in particular in the two big figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume and Thomas Reid. So, so, Hume lived and worked in Edinburgh, Scotland, most of his life. He's most famous for developing a completely naturalistic philosophical system, so by naturalistic people, mean, a system that nowhere does it appeal to God in giving explanations of things. He is one of the first philosophers to ever have lots of things to say about almost all the different areas of philosophy but he doesn't appeal to anything supernatural in any of it. He's also really well-known for his spirited critiques of religion, had to keep these under wraps though. In 18th century Scotland, you couldn't really be all that bold in your critiques of religion. So, what I want to talk about is Hume's essay on miracles. It's a chapter in his book called, An ENQUIRY concerning HUMAN UNDERSTANDING that first came out in 1748. So, Hume's conclusion in the section on miracles is that you should never believe that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimony. To, so to figure out why he, why he drew that conclusion, we need to figure out two things. What does he mean by testimony? What does he mean by a miracle? So, let's take that first part first. What is testimony? So, philosophers use the word testimony to refer to any situation in which you believe something, on the basis of what someone else asserts, either verbally or in writing. So, someone else tells you something and you believe it. You read something that someone else wrote, wrote down and you, and you believe what they say. Those are all instances of testimony. So, Hume and other philosophers who write about testimony are really keen to point out that a ton of what we believe is based on the testimony of other people. So, in the essay on miracles, Hume had this to say. So, there's no species of reasoning more common, more useful, and even necessary to human life, than that which is derived from the testimony of men. Just to get a feel for what Hume is talking about, think some city you've never visited before. Some city you've never actually been to. You've got a lot of beliefs about that city beliefs about who lives there, or population size what it's like, all those beliefs are based on testimony, they're based on believing what people tell you who've been there, they're based on believing what you read in the newspaper about what's going on in that city, based on reading the Wikipedia article about that city, stuff like that. So, all those beliefs are based on testimony. So, Hume and other philosophers writing about testimony are going to point out, first thing, testimony is a really important source of beliefs for, for creatures like us. So now, the big assumption that Hume makes about testimony in his essay on miracles is that, to believe testimony, you have to have evidence that the person who's speaking, or writing, is likely to be right. So, you have to have evidence of the reliability of the person who's testifying to you. He thinks that this assumption, follows from a maybe innocuous sounding assumption, the philosophers call evidentialism. A wise man, proportions his belief to the evidence. So, Hume thinks, well, this applies, when it comes to trusting someone else's testimony, just as much as it applies in, in, in any other situation. So, one thing he assumes, is that if you're going to trust someone's testimony, you need evidence that they are likely to be right or that they are reliable. And that, if you're going to trust people's testimony in general, you need some evidence that people in general are likely to be right when they, when they assert things or they are generally reliable. You can see why this evidentialist principal is true, if you think about cases where someone testifies that something unusual. So, he says that the credit that we give testimony, quote, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less unusual. So, imagine that you go into a cafe and you order a cup of coffee. And the waiter says, sorry, we don't have any coffee. The coffee machine broke down last night. So, in that case, your likely to believe what the waiter says, and trust his testimony. But now, imagine same situation, you walk into the cafe, order a cup of coffee, the waiter says, we don't have any coffee, aliens broke in and stole all our coffee last night. So, in that case, you're not likely to believe, at least not as readily believe what the waiter says. You're likely to be doubtful or skeptical that the waiter is telling the truth. Or maybe the waiter is being sincere, but has gotten it wrong for some reason. So, there's all kinds of ways in which someone can get their testimony wrong, and this is likely one of those times. So, that's what Hume says about testimony. So now, what does he say about miracles? What's a miracle? So, he defines a miracle as quote, a violation of the laws of nature, it's something that's never happened in what he calls the common course of nature. So, a miracle is an exception to a previously exceptionless regularity. It's something that's never happened before. So, to take an example of this, someone rising from the dead, alright? This is something that's never happened before. That's is a paradigm example for Hume of a miracle. With this definition of a miracle in place and with that assumption about testimony, we can now start to see why Hume concludes that you should never believe that a miracle's occurred on the basis of testimony. Here's how he articulates the argument in, in the essay on miracles. He says, no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish. This is just another way of putting that assumption that you should only trust testimony when you've got evidence that the testifier is likely to be right. It's just another way of putting that assumption that the more unusual the event testified to is the less trusting you should be of the testimony. So, think again of that case of the cafe waiter. The reason you'd be inclined not to believe the story is because it's more likely that the cafe waiter is wrong about the alien stealing the coffee than, than, than that the aliens really did steal the coffee. So now, imagine that someone asserts that a miracle has occurred, for example, they say, someone rose from the dead. So, Hume thinks, treat this just like any other case and ask what's more likely, that the person is wrong, for whatever reason, or that someone really did rise from the dead. And the way he puts it, what's more miraculous that this person, that someone really did rise from the dead or that this person, in this case, is wrong, for whatever reason. Well, recall the definition of a miracle that Hume gives us. A miracle is an exception to a previously exceptionless regularity. So, we've got all kinds of evidence in every case of a miracle, we've got all kinds of evidence this event is very unlikely. In the case of the rising of the dead, it's never happened before, so it's a very unlikely event because we've got all kinds of kinds of experimental evidence that it's not likely to happen. But now, we have one more premise to see how Hume gets to his conclusion and it's a pretty innocuous assumption, people are often wrong when they testify. People offer us certain things that are false. There are certain things that are false because they sincerely say something they believe, but they're wrong. And there are certain things that are false sometimes intentionally as, as when people are lying, or joking, or for various other kinds of reasons. So, we've got lots of evidence that miracles are very unlikely. We actually don't have very much evidence that false testimony is unlikely. We've actually got evidence that false testimony happens all the time. So, we can now put all three of these assumptions, the assumption about testimony, the definition of miracles, and this premise about the, the unreliability of human testimony together and we can see how Hume gets his conclusion out of them. So, the first assumption he makes is that you should only trust testimony when you've got evidence that the testifier is likely to be right. The second assumption he makes is that a miracle is an exception to a previously exceptionless regularity. In other words, something that's very unlikely. And the third assumption he makes is that people often assert falsehoods. False testimony isn't all that unlikely. And from those three, he concludes, you should never believe that a miracle's occurred on the basis of testimony. To sum that all up, again, imagine someone asserts that someone has risen from the dead. So, we've got lots of evidence. That's really unlikely, we don't have all that much evidence at all, that the speaker is wrong for some reason or another. In fact, we know that people are often wrong in what they assert, for all kinds of reasons. So, it looks like this case is going to be exactly like this case of the cafe waiter. We shouldn't believe the testimony because it's more likely that the person testifying is wrong than that the event they're saying happened, really did happen, and that's why Hume concludes you should never believe in a miracle on the basis of testimony.