Miracles and the limits of medical knowledge
- William E. Stempsey
- … show all 1 hide
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
In considering whether medical miracles occur, thelimits of epistemology bring us to confront ourmetaphysical worldview of medicine and nature ingeneral. This raises epistemological questions of ahigher order. David Hume's understanding of miraclesas violations of the laws of nature assumes thatnature is completely regular, whereas doctrines suchas C. S. Peirce's ``tychism'' hold that there is anelement of absolute chance in the workings of theuniverse. Process philosophy gives yet another viewof the working of nature. Physicians have noepistemological grounds for declaring any cure to bemiraculous. Miracles are theological (orphilosophical) entities, and not medical entities. All physicians can do is to determine whether or nota cure is scientifically inexplicable according to thecurrent epistemological standards of medical science. As these standards change, what is currentlyunexplainable may become explainable. However, we canalso come to realize that our current explanations arein fact unsatisfactory. Our justifications ofknowledge claims about miracles will depend on ourviews about determinism and indeterminism. If theuniverse is not a deterministic one, we should be opento the possibility of encountering what appear to usas sui generis events. These would not beviolations of immutable laws of nature, butmanifestations of the true workings of nature, andcertainly causes for wonder.
- Ai, A.L., R.E. Dunkle, C. Peterson and S.F. Bolling: 1998, 'The Role of Private Prayer in Psychological Recovery Among Midlife and Aged Patients Following Cardiac Surgery', Gerontologist 38, 591-601.
- Aquinas, St. Thomas: 1928, Summa Contra Gentiles, book 3, trans. the English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine ed. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne.
- Aquinas, St. Thomas: 1975, Summa Theologiae, vol. 14, trans. T. C. O'Brien. London: Blackfriars.
- Augustine, St.: 1982, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, trans. J.H. Taylor. New York: Newman Press.
- Catholic News Service: 1997, 'Cure of Brockton Girl Recognized as Miracle', The Pilot 168(15), April 11.
- Flew, A.: 1990, 'Fogelin on Hume on Miracles', Hume Studies 16, 141-144.
- Fogelin, R.J.: 1990, 'What Hume Actually Said About Miracles', Hume Studies 16, 81-86.
- Hartshorne, C.: 1968, Beyond Humanism: Essays in the Philosophy of Nature. Lincoln: Bison, University of Nebraska Press.
- Hartshorne, C.: 1991, 'A Reply to My Critics', in: L.E. Hahn (ed.), The Philosophy of Charles Hartshorne. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, pp. 569-731.
- Holland, P.F.: 1965, 'The Miraculous', American Philosophical Quarterly 2, 43-51.
- Houston, J.: 1994, Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Hume, D.: 1996, 'Of Miracles', Part 10 of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), reprinted in Hume on Miracles, ed. and introduced by S. Tweyman. Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press.
- Levin, J.S.: 1996, 'How Prayer Heals: A Theoretical Model', Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2, 66-73.
- Lewis, C.S.: 1978, Miracles. New York: Collier Books.
- Manning, S. and L.J. Schneiderman: 1996, 'Miracles or Limits: What Message from the Medical Marketplace?', H E C Forum 8, 103-108.
- McKinnon, A.: 1967, ' "Miracle" and "Paradox" ', American Philosophical Quarterly 4, 308-314.
- O'Laoire, S.: 1997, 'An Experimental Study of the Effects of Distant, Intercessory Prayer on Self-esteem, Anxiety, and Depression', Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 3, 38-53.
- Peirce, C.S.: 1931, Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, 6 volumes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Roberts, L., I. Ahmed, S. Hall, C. Sargent and C. Adams: 1998, 'Intercessory Prayer for Ill Health: A Systematic Review', Forschende Komplementarmedizin 5 Suppl. S1, 82-86.
- Swinburne, R.: 1970, The Concept of Miracle. New York: St. Martin's Press.
- Tillich, P.: 1967, Systematic Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Whitehead, A.N.: 1929, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. New York: Macmillan.
- Whitehead, A.N.: 1933, Adventures of Ideas. New York: Macmillan.
- Whitehead, A.N.: 1958, Modes of Thought. New York: Capricorn Books.
- Woodward, K.L.: 1996, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't, and Why. New York: Touchstone.
- Miracles and the limits of medical knowledge
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Volume 5, Issue 1 , pp 1-9
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Kluwer Academic Publishers
- Additional Links
- laws of nature
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Philosophy, College of the Holy Cross, One College Street, Worcester, MA, 01610-2395, USA