International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 179 23rd October 2013

Edited by Erwin B. Laya, MAT


I. 'Negative Aspects of Tolerance' by Rajakishore Nath

II. 'A Reflection on R.G. Collingwood's History: Its Meaning and Goals' by Raymundo Pavo

III. 'Closed or Limited Nature? A Critique of Hume's Critique of the Probability of Miracles' by Ruel Pepa



First of all, I would like to express my deep debt of gratitude to Geoffrey Klempner in giving me a chance to be an issue editor of the Philosophy Pathways e-journal, an internationally recognized refereed journal. My humble experiences in selecting, reading and editing the works of other people is already considered as my great success and achievement.

For this issue of Philosophy Pathways, Dr Rajakishore Nath from the Indian Institute of Technology of Bombay, a regular contributor of Philosophy Pathways, gives us an in-depth analysis on the ambivalence of tolerance. He also cites the understanding of Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of tolerance. Professor Nath emphasizes that 'tolerance always accompanies self-control.' If we human beings are not in self-control, then it will drive groups apart, creating a sense of permanent separation between us.

A friend of mine, Raymundo R. Pavo, a philosophy professor from the University of the Philippines-Mindanao, gives us a judicious reflection on one of the best known writings of Robin George (R.G.) Collingwood, The Idea of History. In his paper, Professor Pavo critically evaluates the Collingwood's three meanings of history, and its gradation and goals. His reflection on Collingwood's philosophy of history gives us a fresh way of viewing history, which enhances our understanding of history and historical knowledge.

A retired philosophy professor from the Philippines, Ruel F. Pepa, examines critically of one of most influential critiques of miracles ever written, Hume's Critique of the Probability of Miracles. Professor Pepa focuses his critique on the historical probability of miracles since Hume is also concerned with it in his essay on miracles. At the end of his paper, he concludes that miracles have occurred and are probable to occur.

Erwin B. Laya, MAT


About the Editor: https:---



Although there are millions of positive aspect of tolerance, but my main aim in this article is to illustrate the negative aspects of tolerance.

Tolerance is simply interpreted as non-interference. That is to say that one person should not interfere with another. Each must grow and develop in its own unique way. But tolerance always has a basic attitude or tendency towards others as a moral value. In this sense, tolerance always interferes in other social activities and although this interference always leads to better world.

In a situation of ideological conflict between two or more persons, one person may be tolerated by another person. If one person thinks that it is the best way of looking after his or her own interest; or that it is the best way of being considerable to another person. In this case, it may be of either person's interest, but it is based on the calculation of 'interests' irrespective of whose it is. This fact is debatable whether even the most genuine tolerance represents 'goodwill' or suggestions of the other person being beneath notice, much less antagonism. And again, if the tolerance is the product of compassion, it amounts to a concession and not recognition.

There are many contradictory creeds in inverse proportion to one's own faith. Unless one's conviction is sufficiently indifferent, there can be intolerance of others. The related question to this statement is: How can good things tolerate the evil things? In this sense, we can bring few more concepts, which disapprove of tolerance. These concepts are inequality and injustice. Can we tolerate inequality and injustice in this society? In this case, we have to practice 'zero tolerance', which negates the existence of tolerance either in actions or in mind.

On the other hand, if we are tolerating injustice and inequality, then we are welcoming the very idea of violence in our society. Can we say tolerance is the weapon for the strong or the brave? One, who endures sufferings, is bold and he or she can only practice tolerance. Tolerance teaches people to be courageous. Intolerance is the resort of the weak. The followers of tolerance never become weak and succumb to the whims and caprices of others. Like Gandhi's idea of non-violence, tolerance does not mean weak submission to the will of the evil-doer. It means putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Tolerance will not be possible in cultures in which sin and virtue (like good and bad/ dark and light) are aspects of the same piece, in which they will be trying to devastate. In this way, there are many contradictories are crumbled together under the umbrella of tolerance.

Moreover, tolerance gives rise, at least to some extent, to being on familiar terms with the dogmas of others or it may admit to have a peaceful interpersonal relationship. But in the case of a theist and an atheist, both of them opposed each other on the basis of their convictions and basic assumptions, and one cannot tolerate each other in their basic and fundamental principles.

Now the question is: How can they tolerate each other? Although, there are many solutions to this question, the basic contradictions remain non-comprehensible. For simply there is a limit to tolerance. All moral concepts have of some limitations. In the ideal case one practices without reference to what is tolerated. Otherwise they would be tolerating what they approve of, and that is no great moral value.

On the other hand, if one tolerates what does not justify to be tolerated, it will be a case of lost compassion. Compassion is superior; but if it is lost, is it still superior? Tolerance does not issue suo motto. It becomes a good value only when provocation exists; and so the injunction 'Resist not evil' is the highest authority to the tolerant. But if it becomes impractical for any reason, one of which might be extreme injustice on the part of opponent, then one shows aggravation, annoyance, and violence against oneself and which leads psycho-physical disorder.

Is tolerance neutral? Neutralism advocates another form of escape. Those who identify absolutely well that tolerance cannot be protected by suspending judgment about goods and evils have difficulty defending it in any other way. If neutrality is a square circle, then so is tolerance, along with all of its component virtues like objectivity and fairness.

There are many classical as well as contemporary thinkers who have given importance to the concept of tolerance, and this provides more motivation to become non-violent. This aspect of tolerance will establish universal brotherhood and at the same time it upholds the non-anthropocentric universe and this non-anthropocentric aspect defines that all beings are intrinsically valuable to this universe.

But there are negative aspects of any kind or forms of tolerance because it has negative connotation towards the other person. Mahatma Gandhi also was not happy with this concept of tolerance. Tolerance always accompanies self-control. If we human beings are not in self-control, then it will lead to violence or coercion. While we are practicing tolerance, we are accepting hierarchy or differences among ourselves. This brings inequality in the society in many ways and there is always the idea of revenge in the tolerant mind.

Instead of practicing tolerance, it is better to practice acceptance. By accepting everything as part of our life, this will never lead to violence because we are not tolerating anything rather than we are accepting everything as part of our being. Here the word 'acceptance' does not mean 'possession'. If you are taking the word 'acceptance' in this sense, this will lead to violence. But the word 'acceptance' means someone neither tolerating nor possessing anything, rather he or she is establishing universal fellow beings.


Balasubramanian, R. (ed) (1992), Tolerance in Indian Culture, New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research.

Budziszewski, J. (1992), True Tolerance: Liberalism and the Necessity of Judgment, USA: Transaction.

Gandhi, M. K. (1960), My Non-Violence, Ahmadabad, India: Navajivan Publishing House.

(c) Rajakishore Nath 2013





Man signifies himself in history. This is an insight demonstrated in Collingwood's position that the human mind exists in so far as it is engaged in the reconstruction and re-enactment of past thoughts (Collingwood, 1946: 227). By considering history from this perspective, Collingwood proposes history as a fertile location for self-knowledge. More to the point, historical thinking is presented as a location wherein man can discover the achievements and weaknesses of his mind (Ibid., 9-10). With this opportunity for self-knowledge/ self-understanding, we shall present in this paper Collingwood's discourse on the three-fold meanings of history, which reveals three specific kinds of intellectual commitment, which are conditioned by three ways of instantiating self-understanding.

Meanings of History

The three meanings of history according to Collingwood are as follows: scissors and paste, critical, and scientific. In The Idea of History (1946), each class of history is reflective of an epistemologically oriented kind of commitment. This means that each kind of history stands for a privileged standard of truth or meaning.

Scissors and paste history believes in one thing: the testimony of an authority. Historical truth, in this respect, is defined according to the authority's position. Since the historian finds no fault in the perspective of the authority, he is convinced that it is his calling to strengthen established historical truths or to coincide with traditionally accepted historical claims. Otherwise, the results of his investigations shall be categorized as false and misleading. With the framework of scissors and paste history, we are of the opinion that a historical contribution means that the historian presents a new way of preserving traditionally accepted historical claims. Thus it makes sense why this type of history is called scissors and paste. Collingwood holds that the name literally stands for the process of combining and assimilating various ready-made historical claims. The historian, in using this approach, considers it his task to master the craft of tailoring his position to the known and established positions (Ibid., 257). This is the epistemological standard that the scissors and paste approach values and sustains.

Collingwood also notes that it was only in the seventeenth century that an innovative conception of historical method unfolded. More specifically, the historians of the seventeenth century did something, which the scissors and paste historian considered inappropriate, they challenged the authenticity of established historical claims. The positions of the authorities in history were questioned and assessed against this query: How can we verify the authenticity of an established historical claim? Armed with this question, the historian evaluates whether a historical fact is authentic or not. From an obedient historian, he is now critical of ready-made claims in history. Thus this paved way for a new kind of history: critical.

However, a closer analysis shall reveal that critical history still works within the scissors and paste framework. How is this possible? If you look into the question of the critical historian, he is still working within the scope of the established historical positions. He is still employing the ready-made historical statements as the subject of critical investigation (Ibid., 258). The available historical positions, on this view, function as the data of historical analysis. If the historian establishes the authenticity of a traditional historical stance, it is listed again in the roster of historical claims. If it has been established that the traditional view has no basis, it is re-classified and relegated into the category of opinion. Although the epistemological frame for the critical phase is still scissors and paste, its contribution lies in its capacity to generate questions. Here-on, the critical historian is at the disposal of another style of history which may lead him to discover not just another approach to truth-making. More importantly, he might comprehend a unique way of asking questions.

Another way of doing history is comparable to a modern archaeologist's method of conducting historical investigation: scientific. Instead of excavating and gathering retrieved materials from a site, Collingwood holds that the modern archaeologist, before he begins his research, formulates a set of guide questions. The pre-formulated inquiry functions as a filter through which the excavated entities are read and interpreted. This means that the questions brought into the investigation determines the direction of the research. This archaeological framework of doing research serves as a model of the modern meaning of historical method. Instead of merely arranging, or criticizing available and ready-made historical positions, the scientific historian creates his own historical stance. He accomplishes this by forcing the objects of his research to respond to the questions that he has in mind. The modern historian does not wait for his subject-matter to unfold a historical truth. He forces them to answer his questions.

Like the modern scientist, the scientific historian does not simply wait to discover what the unearthed artifacts suggest. He is equipped with a question, which he uses as his leverage in demanding nature that she replies to his inquiries. This is the basis of a new epistemology. The new historian, in this sense, is definitely prepared and knows his agenda. Such that before he ventures into a site, he reflects on the different possibilities that his future investigation could unravel. It should be noted here that the role and relevance of questions in any study is shared by Francis Bacon. Bacon holds that instead of waiting to see how nature unfolds, the scientist must put nature to question. In consonance with Bacon's position, Collingwood maintains that the scientific approach puts nature to the question. He tortures her by experiment in order to wring from her answers to his own questions, so history finds its proper method when the historian puts his authorities in the witness-box. By cross-questioning, he also extorts from them information which in their original statements they have withheld, either because they did not wish to give it or because they did not possess it. (Ibid., 237)

Meanings of History: A Case of Gradation

Given the three meanings of history, our next discussion shall focus on the kind of order/ hierarchy that we can apply to the meanings of history. This sense of ordering is done so we can assess and present the weaknesses and strengths that each of the three historical meanings possesses. This effort to subject the meanings to a scale is reflective of Collingwood's the scale of forms (Collingwood, 1933). Our initial thesis for this concern is that Collingwood arranges the three meanings of history in this order: scissors and paste as the lowest, followed by the critical approach, and the scientific approach as the highest meaning of history to date. Let us see why such a scale is proposed and present the possible reasons behind such an arrangement.

The scissors and paste approach stands as one stable idea of the genus history. As a member of the philosophical scale of history, it reflects how the human mind once interpreted the meaning of historical thinking. The scissors and paste approach, it can be recalled, demands that historical positions must ultimately coincide with the historical claims of the so-called authorities. Any contradiction to existing and accepted historical truths is relegated to the limbo of meaningless utterances. This stance of the scissors and paste historian, however, occupies the lowest part in the scale of historical thinking. Being the lowest, nevertheless, does not mean that it is entirely wrong and useless. Even the most incorrect view holds certain grains of truth. The scissors and paste paradigm has certain strengths and positive sides to it. Critical history, being the higher species of thought than the scissors and paste approach, has the task to appropriate its strengths and overcome or rectify its limitations. This means that we can assess scissors and paste from the lens of the critical approach to history.

As the lowest part of the scale, the limitation of the scissors and past approach is the belief that it is the best instantiation of history. Critical history, being the higher species of thought, perceives the scissors and paste historian as not autonomous. The scissors and past historian is obliged to follow, restate, and strengthen the traditional positions determined by the so-called authorities in history. This is a perceived weakness which critical history shall try to address. But what is its possible strength? Since the scissors and paste approach is obedient, its strength lies in its stress for comprehension. This means that a good historian has to be as informed as possible of the foundations, and capacities that the accepted truth claims hold. This is a task that requires focus and passion. Moreover, this is the strength that a scissors and past historian can be proud of. In an analogical sense, the scissors and paste historian is a well-informed slave.

Since critical history prioritizes authenticity among its other concerns, this notion of history provides a kind of leverage in determining which historical statement is true or false. Once the authenticity of a historical claim is established, the critical historian may conclude that he has successfully undertaken the historical investigation. This is the merit that distinguishes and elevates the critical historian compared to the scissors and paste method. Thus it is through such sense that critical history is higher than the scissors and paste approach. But building on the strength of the scissors and paste, the critical historian also values comprehension. He knows that he has to pay extra attention to what he thinks he has understood so he can be disposed to questions that can challenge patronized truth claims. Is traditional truth really true? Give me the evidence and let us see if truth will still be the same. This is perhaps a line of reasoning which crosses the mind of the critical historian every now and then.

But because the critical historian utilizes the core of the scissors and paste paradigm, established historical positions, he is actually also preserving its strength and its weakness. How is this so? In reconfiguring ready-made claims in history, the critical historian fundamentally builds on the presence and pool of historical claims that are already available and given. The critical historian, like the historian using scissors and paste method, begins his investigation with traditional claims. He sees the archaeology of historical knowledge already filled-up. His only difference is that he elevates the authenticity criterion as the lens through which the veracity of the ready-made and traditional historical claims is determined. This is the basis of the critical historian's strength; and interestingly, it shares with the weakness of scissors and paste, ready-made information.

Is critical history the highest species of understanding in the genus of historical thinking? The scientific historian thinks otherwise. Scientific history holds that it is a higher species of thought, since it can address the errors and limitations of critical history. More specifically, the scientific historian points out that critical history still work within the scope of the scissors and paste approach. This is the main error that permeates the method of critical history. Scientific history holds that the so-called autonomy of critical history is not genuine. The main reason that backs up such a claim is that the critical historian still makes use of previously held historical positions. Critical history does not really produce new historical claims. Its method of doing history simply isolates perceived inauthentic positions from authentic ones in history. In this respect, the critical historian is still working within the familiar territory of available historical positions.

The scientific historian's unique way of doing history lies in its attempt to answer a question or sets of questions as he begins and continues an investigation in history. In this regard, the scientific historian's question carves the path towards and through which the historical project progresses. He is not assuming that there are ready-made historical claims. Nothing is ready-made in the eyes of the scientific historian. Hence, unlike critical history, the scientific historian does not simply limit himself to ready-made claims. He expects himself to formulate new entries in the archaeology of historical truths as he remains cognizant that it is to such end that his questions serve. A question, therefore, conditions the possibility of the scientific historian's freedom. This is because the inquiry expresses what the historian specifically intends to know and the conclusion that he hopes to arrive at.

In view of the foregoing, the scientific historian is not a slave to established historical positions. He enjoys a genuine and comprehended sense of autonomy as he clearly understands that it is his queries that shape the contours and processes in reconstructing a past event. Thus the scientific historian does not aim at repeating and repackaging what has been said by famed authorities in history. His real aim is to force historical artifacts to respond to his inquiries. In so doing, he does not simply wait for historical truths to unfold. He makes them as he verifies whether certain objects can clarify his questions. It is the historian who decides the path of the research and distinguishes whether an object can or cannot answer a particular question in history (Collingwood, 1946: 273).

The Goals of History

First, Autonomy: In The Idea of History (1946) Collingwood identifies two autonomous characters of scientific-history: the first has to do with the notion that historical thought is a science of its own kind, while the second pertains to the characteristic of historical thought as a form of rational action which builds its own world of human affairs, Res Gestae or a world that reason creates in its own way (Ibid., 318-319).

The initial sense of autonomy marks history as a systematic and logical field of study. The structure of its system is configured by the following crucial elements: the question that a research tries to address, the construed evidence, and the logical interpolation given the verified nodal points. The independence of history is conditioned by the presence of the foregoing elements. The scientific historian, to be true to his name, has to carefully take into account the kind of question he is asking. This means that the historian has an idea or two of what he intends to find and discover.

Given the stress placed on the inquiry, the historian is poised to evaluate the possible evidence to hopefully substantiate the perceived claims of his study. His question, disguised in his hypothesis, delimits the terrain of the research. In this way, the study becomes scientific as the historian declares that he knows what he intends to find. The role of the inquiry in the autonomy of the research is, therefore, not to be underestimated. We can even hold that a question is a sufficient condition of history's autonomy such that in the absence of the question, the historian's research ceases to be scientific. History becomes a mere shadow play. The historian, in this regard, is scissors and paste, who is confined to the superficial aim of reiterating historical truths pronounced and perpetuated by tradition and the so-called authorities in the discipline of history and fields engaged in truth-making.

With the question, the scientific historian is always ready to look for concrete entities that can serve as evidence or nodal points for the investigation. The evidence, from the question's consideration, is construed or chosen as that which can address the demands of the inquiry. The evidence or the nodal point acts as delimitations of the research. They sort of identify the location or context where the raised question revolves. This also explains why the evidence is already treated as answer to the question, since the evidence makes us realize that the inquiry of the research is a historical question that must be asked if ever one intends to understand what an act of thought means.

Since history is an account of human acts, it is fundamentally a reconstruction of how the human mind once thought of the world and of himself. This means that scientific history maps out the thoughts and activities of the human mind including the difficulties that it once dealt with and the solutions that it tried to adopt. In such a case, historical truth does not only pertain to how individuals understood their situations; it is also a representation of the thinking life of a community. This makes historical knowledge a countenance of the communal mind. As Res Gestae, it is a world built and organized by reason. No other field of study provides a scientific account of how man once thought of himself and of the world (Collingwood, 1999: 46).

Second, Progress: In history, progress is demonstrated in the historian's capacity to separately re-enact two diverging acts of thought. For instance, if a historian wishes to successfully compare a revolutionary life from a life lived in a democratic form of government, the historian should at least have similar experiences to both ways of life. The role of experience is underlined, since it serves as the mind's access to the two forms of government. If he has been or is disposed to the two ways of life, historical reconstruction becomes possible. This is because his experience allows the historian to discover the merits and demerits of each form of life. If he chooses the revolutionary life, the historian knows that he has chosen the better. This is the meaning of progress in historical thought as the historian eventually encounters a discovery built on his comparative study. Meaning, it is the historian who reaches the insight that between the two forms of government, it is not to be interpreted as a matter of replacement between the bad and the good. Choosing in historical thinking is opting for the good and the better -- not just the good (Collingwood, 1946: 326). In this respect, the historical reconstruction has equipped the historian himself as he discovered the gains and losses when he chooses one act of thought over another. Progress sets in the context of arriving at a better comprehension of the two acts of thought.

The second meaning of progress happens when historical re-enactment includes a wider thinking experience. The project to reconstruct a period of thought, that is to say, Medieval Period, can well elucidate this point. To understand medieval thinking from the modern point of view, the historian is expected not to conclude that one period is better than another. It is practically impossible to have a fair assessment of two expansive periods of historical thought. If the historian winds up his investigation saying that one historical phase is better than another, his conclusion is not marked by achievement but by failure. This is because underneath the historian's pronouncement, there actually lies the practical incapability to re-enact the past actions of all individuals in one whole historical period. It is also quite problematic to gather all the necessary evidences and to have all the right questions in mind to appropriately reconstruct the past actions in a historical phase. Progress in history, in this regard, is to be interpreted as an admission of humility, the realization of the vastness of a historical period and the limitations of an individual's capacity for historical reconstruction. Thus any distinction between a great period and a poor phase in the history of thought is an ill-based classification.

For instance, the so-called Dark Ages in the history of philosophy is due to the fact that the medieval way of thinking remains to be adequately re-enacted and understood in our minds. When the historian falls outside of a historical experience, he either can re-enact the thoughts or not. If the latter case is true, the historian is usually tempted to classify a phase in history as primitive. In contrast, the phase of thought, which he is able to re-enact, is the civilized one. Thus any comparison between a primitive and a civilized community is to be regarded as a reflection of the extent of the capacity of the mind of the historian, which means that the analysis manifests the mind of the historian himself (Collingwood, 1946: 327).

In re-enacting previous thought experiences, the historian is in a good position to understand the problems revolving around past thought experiences. He can evaluate the effectiveness of the offered solutions and study their strengths and weaknesses. This also means that the historian preserves the link between past and present thoughts. He strengthens the historical claim that the past lives in the present. The past is reinterpreted from the standpoint of a present and peculiar thinking experience. In so doing, the historian creates and carves a constructive and critical progress. It has to be constructive, since it builds on the experiences of the past, thereby continuing the link between past and present acts of thought. Moreover, it has to be labeled as critical, since the present thinking experience considers some aspects of previous acts of thought insufficient in addressing certain problems in the history of thought (Ibid., 334).

Third, Self-knowledge: An important gain in re-enacting a past act of thought is self-knowledge. When the historian re-enacts a past act of thought, the capacities, strengths and limitations, of his mind are unraveled. If the historian is successful in re-enacting a past act of thought, the achievement speaks of the strength of his mind. If the process of re-enacting a past act of thought is problematic, the difficulty can be attributed to a weak thinking capacity or the unhealthy habits of the mind (Collingwood, 1946: 219). This makes self-knowledge an important dimension in the critical activity of historical thinking, a self-directed type of critique (Rubinoff, 1991).

Since the historian can re-enact the past acts of thought of another individual, the criticism can also be other-directed. In this respect, historical re-enactment can be used to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the mind of another individual. This type of critique is termed as spectator's criticism. It is the historian's way of evaluating an individual's reason(s) in choosing to act in a specific manner, or the possible causes for failing to do so. The self-directed and other-directed criticisms of historical thinking are challenges to a scientist-historian who desires to deepen his capacity for historical knowledge and to expand his capability to learn insights from the acts of other individuals. His positive outlook towards such criticisms makes an important presupposition in historical thinking evident: thought is a corporate possession. Because by thinking historically, the historian confirms his position as the heir of corporate historical knowledge (Collingwood, 1946: 226).

In re-enacting his past actions and the past acts of others, he strengthens the link between his present thoughts and to past act of thought. He also affirms the fact that his thoughts are, in an important sense, built upon previous thinking experiences. The historian becomes disposed to this insight: that by thinking historically, thought lives and continues to exist.

Moreover, the historian who faces the dual challenge, self-directed and other-directed criticism, of the theory of re-enactment, is in a special way creating himself. He does this by affirming a state of mind wherein he is most receptive to what he can discover in himself, in the capacities of his intellect, in knowing the benefits of his past acts of thought, and in looking forward to learn something from the past acts of other individuals (Collingwood, 1946: 288).

Conclusion: Kinds of Intellectual Commitment

Collingwood's notion of history can serve as a location where we can identify three possible kinds of intellectual commitment which the human mind can demonstrate. When gleaned from the scissors and paste approach, one sense of commitment stands out, faithfulness to and comprehension of ready-made information. This is one brand of solidarity. Unfortunately, this brand of solidarity is the lowest, since thinking is limited to repetition and comprehension of existing thoughts. Instead of developing and nourishing the mind's capacity for critique and innovation, the scissors and paste is content with the familiar domain.

For the critical approach, the sense of intellectual solidarity that is privileged is the critical eye in determining or investigating the authenticity of sources of truth. While this approach is highly interested to challenge dominant forms of discourse, it remains oblivious to its responsibility to be at the forefront of knowledge-production. This means that while the critical approach interests itself in challenging the notions of truth, its goal becomes its own prison in the sense that the critical historian has forgotten how to own the task of developing a system of thought or building a point of view. In other words, the critical approach has mastered the craft of challenging truth-authorities without even knowing and experiencing the struggles and difficulties in fashioning/ carving a possible intellectual/ theoretical vantage point. Thus the kind of solidarity that grows out of the mind-set of the critical historian is to master its de-constructing rhetoric. Consequently, its main limitation remains: it does not have the commitment to cross the bridge from being a critique to being a proponent of intellectual novelty.

With the scientist-historian, we can propose that its intellectual solidarity is the ideal, since its thinking disposition allows it to attain, and be a witness, thereof, of the three-fold goals of history: autonomy, progress and self-knowledge: First, with autonomy, he has formulated and owned the questions that guide the direction of his investigation. The question, for the scientist-historian, is a responsibility that he is willing to face and carry. Since he has this mature perspective on the role of questions, he is excited to make thinking as a platform of emerging intellectual questions. Second, with progress, the scientist-historian makes himself receptive to better ways of thinking. He accomplishes this by looking into the strengths and limitations of his present mind-set. Conscious that he operates according to a paradigm, he is fascinated over the possibility that he will reach higher heights in understanding his intellectual biases as in the case of privileged ways of thinking. Lastly, with self-knowledge, the scientist-historian gives life to his dream of contributing something to the processes of truth-making. This is the foundation for this brand of solidarity. In so doing, the scientist-historian is not just eager to transcend his own thinking capacities. His endeavor to think well is based on the motivation to find new ways of thinking (Pavo, 2009: 131).


Collingwood, R.G. (1939). An autobiography. Oxford: Clarendon.

_________ (1933). An essay on philosophical method. Oxford: Clarendon.

_________ (1946). The idea of history. Oxford: Oxford.

_________ (1999). The principles of history. Oxford: Oxford.

Pavo, R. (2009). Collingwood's logic of question and answer: Its possible contribution to a philosophy of education. Hapag, 6 (1), 107-121.

Rubinoff, D. (1991). History and human nature: Reflections on R.G. Collingwood. International studies in philosophy, 23 (3), 75-89.

(c) Raymundo R. Pavo 2013




     WE COME from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we
     call the luminous interval life. As soon as we are born the
     return begins, at once the setting forth and the coming
     back; we die in every moment. Because of this many have
     cried out: The goal of life is death! But as soon as we are
     born we begin the struggle to create, to compose, to turn
     matter into life; we are born in every moment. Because of
     this many have cried out: The goal of ephemeral life is
     immortality! In the temporary living organism these two
     streams collide: (a) the ascent toward composition, toward
     life, toward immortality; (b) the descent toward
     decomposition, toward matter, toward death. Both streams
     well up from the depths of primordial essence. Life
     startles us at first; it seems somewhat beyond the law,
     somewhat contrary to nature, somewhat like a transitory
     counteraction to the dark eternal fountains; but deeper
     down we feel that Life is itself without beginning, an
     indestructible force of the Universe. Otherwise, from where
     did that superhuman strength come which hurls us from the
     unborn to the born and gives us -- plants, animals, men --
     courage for the struggle? But both opposing forces are
     holy. It is our duty, therefore, to grasp that vision which
     can embrace and harmonize these two enormous, timeless, and
     indestructible forces, and with this vision to modulate our
     thinking and our action.
Prologue, The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises

This article particularly focuses on the Scottish philosopher David Hume's treatment of the problem of the probability of miracles in a write-up about the said issue in his monumental work, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [http:---], Section X, pp. 75-91. Directly related to that is an earlier one, 'Of Probability' [http:---],  Section VI, pp. 40-55, likewise found in the same volume, which defines our reference point.

Basically, we do affirm in this undertaking the probability of miracles which faces the challenges posed by the Humean attack. Thus, its ultimate concern is to draw a criterion of probability that would hold fast the certainty of the claim that miracles have occurred and are probable to occur. However, it is presumed that we initially distinguish between antecedent probability of chances and historical probability.

Miracles, when viewed in the light of the criterion of antecedent probability of chances, are obviously highly improbable in the sense that miracles happen more rarely than other events. It is, therefore, inconceivable within the span of normal spatio-temporal succession of events that a miracle will occur at a specific place and time. However, this improbability does not lead us to a state of unbelief when a miracle happens for, all events that occurred within the scope and limits of what is commonly regarded as 'natural' were once improbable. It was then highly improbable for one who believed that the earth was flat; that sailing continuously westward or eastward would ultimately head back to the very starting point. But when it happened it was not incredible.

This article does not deal with probability via the criterion of antecedent probability of chances but through the historical probability of miracles. For simply Hume is also concerned with the latter kind in his essay on miracles. Hume's essay, 'Of Miracles,' is the point of departure of the popular belief that 'historical statements about miracles are the most intrinsically improbable of all historical statements' Richard L. Purtill, C.S. Lewis' Case for the Christian Faith. 2004, Ignatius Press, p.85. In 'Of Probability,' Hume says:

     There is certainly a probability, which arises from a
     superiority of chances on any side; and according as this
     superiority increases, and surpasses the opposite chances,
     the probability receives a proportionable increase, and
     begets still a higher degree of belief or assent to that
     side, in which we discover the superiority.

In other words, Hume asserts that probability depends upon the succession of regularities whose root can be traced through similarities in what have occurred in the past. This means that the notion of probability is tied up with the 'majority votes of our past experiences' C. S. Lewis, Miracles (Glasgow: Fontana Books, 1976), p. 105. When we have come to know in the past that event A is the cause in another similar situation where event B is to be an effect, it is customarily inferred that event A is the most probable cause. From the succession of similar regularities of the same nature, we affirm the notion of probability as we fortify and confirm belief to the imagination that in future events, event B is always preceded by event A.

Hence, we are confronted by two related ideas, probability and regularity of nature's course. The former rests on the 'majority vote of past experiences'; while the latter, on the 'unanimous vote'. The regularity of nature's course according to Hume is 'firm and unalterable'. The uniformity experience of the regularity of nature's course is used by Hume as a counter-instance against the probability of miracles. He strongly asserts that miracles are the most improbable events because of the very notion laid down by the uniformity of nature as we experience it.

C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, reacts to such contention:

     Now of course we must agree with Hume that, if there is
     absolutely 'uniform experience' against miracles, if, in
     other words, they have never happened, why then they never
     have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to
     be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are
     false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false
     only if we know already that miracles have never occurred.
     In fact, we are arguing in a circle.
     Miracles, p. 106

The notion of probability comes out of human experience as he observes relationship between events. Probability is within the landscape of experience. But the notion of probability presupposes the principle of the uniformity of nature; without this very principle, our observation of varied events in nature would not allow us to infer relations among events and would not ascertain us the fact that there is a sort of regularities in the occurrence of these events. Thus the principle of the uniformity of nature lies outside our experience of events and probable events, that is to say, it cannot be known through experience. The idea of probability rests on the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature.

Nevertheless, we must further categorize the principle of the uniformity of nature in relation to the idea of probability because the principle is viewed in two different conflicting manners. On the one hand, there are those who view the principle operating in a closed system; on the other hand, there are those who believe that it operates in a limited system. If the principle is fitted in a closed system, then the idea of probability or improbability is inconceivable, nothing is probable or improbable. Everything operates like a machine, and the succession of related events in absolute regularity cannot be said to be possible or impossible to happen in the future because it is already absolutely certain that it will happen. The notion of improbability is likewise meaningless because no instance that flows along the line of uniform regularity can be said to be improbable. Others are absolutely inconceivable beyond the limits of the closed system.

Unfortunately, Hume believes in the operation of the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Closed System. He says that the unanimous vote of past experiences that support the regularity of nature's course is 'firm and unalterable'. His contention is further strengthened by his affirmative response to the question, 'Is the course of nature absolutely uniform?'

But to hold the view that nature operates uniformly in a closed system is to dehumanize the human being because the very principle that asserts this view takes everything as a machine. The human being is not a machine for 'man knows about man, and there is evidence to the cold fact that man knows man.' Francis Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent (Tyndale House, 1972), p. 63 Who is able to perceive the relation among events in a regular uniform course? No one except the human being, never a machine. From such perception of order, who conceives laws to serve future purposes? No one else except the human being.

The human being is not a machine because a machine has a totality; it is complete. A machine is a sort of 'facticity' or a 'thing-in-itself' but the human being is a 'possibility,' a 'thing-for-itself' who continuously struggles in the moment-to-moment reality of her or his existence cf. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology (Citadel Press, 2001). If the human being is a machine, then s/he would not act in response to any situation that affects his or her very existence because such responsibility involves sensibility and sensitivity and a machine doesn't have such characteristics.

The human being is, therefore, open to changes. Otherwise, responsibility, sensitivity, and sensibility are useless. The possibility of change enables the human being to adapt his personal existence in varied situations. In doing so, the human being guided by his values toward success employs creativity. The human being can create responsibly, and creative responsibility is a characteristic of human personality; nothing impersonal does have such characteristic. Thus creative responsibility and human personality cannot exist from an impersonal beginning; they must have a creative as well as personal origin.

But such conception cannot be accepted within the limits of a closed system; rather, it is the very core of the other view, the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This locates the foundation of Hume's idea of probability in a stalemate. In the long run, the idea will ultimately be annihilated by the seed of destruction spawned in its very own foundation. If we believe Hume, then, what is probability or improbability?

The genuine notion of probability emerges only from the presupposed Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This necessitates the presence of a perceiving rational-creative-responsible-personal being to comprehend order and regularity in natural occurrences. If we take the other principle, the human being is inevitably regarded as a machine. Who will then comprehend the nature and infer the notion of probability from it?

Probability must, therefore, rest upon the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This system is open to re-ordering by the human being and by the Primal Life-Force, the elan vital (cf. Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution), that emanates from 'the depths of primordial essence' (in the Prologue of Nikos Kazantzakis' The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises [http:---]). It is the source from which the human being's humanity or personality emanates and whose supreme creativity birthed nature, real and concrete. Since this primal life-force is the source of humanity's being, its presence can be inferred from human freedom that is capable to re-order nature as it operates in a limited system. Though the very act itself is limited by the bounds of what is natural. This power that has given the human being the freedom to act upon natural circumstances, open to changes has likewise in itself the freedom in the highest order to act upon the course of nature. It is the one that created the real and concrete facts that combine to form states of affairs in nature.

If we infer the idea of probability from the core of this foundation, then miracles are probable. This is 'miracle' in the sense C. S. Lewis defines the term as 'interference with Nature by supernatural power' [http:---].

Thus the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System provides us with a strong foundation that miracles are very much probable to occur because the very system itself, the limited system, opens up possibilities not only for the human being but more significantly for the primal source of the uniformity of nature and of humanity's being itself.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa 2013


© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020