How would David Hume evaluate the psi data? | George Williams

Psi skeptics have often used David Hume’s Argument Against Miracles to attack the psi data. Recently, Rebek and Alcock (2019) cited Hume’s argument to dismiss the psi literature recently summarized by Cardena (2018) as impossible. I wish to present a number of problems with the way psi critics have used Hume’s argument. First, Hume’s primary target is the fallibility of testimony in the context of religious miracles. Hume discusses at length the problems with testimony on religious matters, but provides little discussion on matters explored under much more controlled conditions, which happens to be the case with psi. Psi skeptics do little to acknowledge this distinction. Second, psi critics compare the psi data with various conventional theories which were developed from a different set of data. To use Hume’s argument successfully, psi critics must avoid making an apples to oranges comparison. The third problem is that psi critics do not fully consider that the anomalous data represents not something miraculous but instead some sort of phenomenon we presently understand poorly. That is, the psi data may fall into the gaps in our current understanding of the world. Given these 3 problems that the skeptics have failed to deal with, I argue that Hume, should he be alive today, might very likely accept the psi data.

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Published on January 1, 2022