“Barbarous Nations”

One of Hume’s arguments concerning miracles involves a claim that miracle testimonies come from people who are from ‘barbarous nations’. Is this claim true?

The first caveat to make is to establish some interpretations of the claim:

1. Miracle testimonies come from primitive, non-industrial, people (the stupid people appeal)
2. Miracle testimonies come from non-European nations (the Eurocentric appeal)
3. Miracle testimonies come from poorly educated people (the poorly educated appeal)
4. Miracle testimonies do not come from civilised persons (the converse claim)

I would like to be informed if there are any empirical studies on the social stratification of miracle claims; this could clear up issues of:

1. Whether miracle claims originate from certain religious stratifications (Christian, Muslim etc.)
2. Whether miracle claims originate from non-Europeans
3. The educational status of miracle claimants: possible underlying questions about the social background of such persons

I am willing to believe (on my own anecdotal tesimonies from persons I know) that there are intelligent, European descendent (this includes white Africans; Antipodeans; North Americans etc.), but anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be admissable for this kind of argument in any answer to the question: do people believe in miracles, where there is no question of ‘barbarity’ to raise?


Should we be wary of our emotions?

A sentimental point of view 

I am afraid that a certain philosophical enemy could be right about the way he understands the passions. Let us a set of tenets:

  • Some beliefs are pre-rational; pre-deliberative. They are just there; like “Ouch, that hurts!”; there is no deliberation or reflection involved, we just form that belief in response to immediate stimulae
  • The way we judge something to be good; or beautiful, is by the way that we are affected by it. To appreciate beauty is to be taken in by feeling; to know of love is to be captured by a certain tenderness, a certain warmth, compassion, closeness; to know of virtue is to admire strength, be in awe at greatness, and be angered towards vice.
  • To be fully human, and, further, to be good judges of art and goodness, we must embrace the inner feelings and sentiments we hold about them, the affections we have define and form the background of our responses to them.

Let me give some cases where it seems the emotions have an important role; where affection is crucial:

  1. Empathy/strong sympathy: empathy is the capacity to simulate the emotional state of another insofar as one can relate to their experience, current or present. Sympathy is an association with our common kin and involves a sense of concern about them, a strong form of this would involve maintaining or proteting, or event assisting with, the interests that person may have.
  2. Love?: To fall in love in our putative conception, and express affection; is to very much be taken by the passions. The very word ‘passion’ finds its most common usage when associated with love. Kant uses this word as if it was a very very bad and scary thing. Kant’s definition is certainly stronger than Hume’s, yet my worry is that Kant’s strong form does apply in certain cases, and is a challenge to our authority of judgements and agency itself; having strong feelings is something I fear a great deal.
  3. The justification of beauty: when I listen to a fine Tarot song; or a certain piece of music from my pianistic past; I feel very much taken by the sentiment of the piece; for Tarot, I admire the contrasting properties of Marco’s voice; the roughness of his voice (post-Stigmata); yet the sincerity of feeling; the honesty of expression, against the anger of some parts. Claire de Lune took me strongly when I listened to it recently; so many things I was reminded of; it reminded me of the past; my hopes, who I used to be; and memories of when I played it. I used to feel as if ‘in love’ when playing it; to make such a sound, trying to maintain the pianissimo passages; the legato-ness of the arpeggiations, and simply the dreaminess of the melody, took me to a place that normal life simply doesn’t take me. It was a journey of love, a journey of such tenderness, solitude, yet, togetherness. To really know of such beauty IS to take part in the passions. Should I be afraid of this?

Why should I be afraid? (Michael)

Emotions are good AND bad. Emotional standardised responses can be negatively manipulated through long term chemical alterations; social location; long term suffering; and just the plain unlucky.

Emotions, and like nearly everything else in life, seem to be something that can bring both positive and negative effects. This may show us, following Spinoza; that the passions, in all its glory and despair, is a double-edged sword. Nothing completely good can truly give us harm (assumption). We must assume that the worth of the emotions are merely instrumental.

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