David Hume was one of the three great British empiricists (the others were John Locke and George Berkeley). He wrote profoundly influential works on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of religion, and was also published on politics, economics and history. Hume’s views were consistently controversial; he decided to omit his argument against the rationality of belief in miracles from his A Treatise of Human Nature, but prepared his most contentious work, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, for posthumous publication. His philosophical legacy includes sceptical problems with causation, perception, and induction.

The argument against belief in miracles that Hume omitted from A Treatise of Human Nature later appeared in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. There Hume argued that miracles, by definition, involve the violation of the laws of nature, and are therefore less likely to occur than any other event. Any attestation to a miracle is therefore more likely to be errant than accurate; misleading evidence is more probable than the miraculous. If anyone reports to us the occurrence of a miracle, therefore, then we should should reject that report as either dishonest or mistaken, and if it appears to us that a miracle has occurred in our presence, then we do better to doubt our senses than to believe them.

Hume delayed the publication of his major work on the philosophy of religion, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, until after his death, due to the controversial nature of its contents. In it, three characters, Cleanthes, Demea, and Philo, discuss the various arguments for the existence of God. The criticisms of these arguments that are raised in the Dialogues are still held by many to be decisive.