Miracles: Metaphysics, Physics, and Physicalism

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Religious Studies


Debates about the metaphysical compatibility between miracles and natural laws often appear to prejudge the issue by either adopting or rejecting a strong physicalist thesis (the idea that the physical is all that exists). The operative component of physicalism is a causal closure principle: that every caused event is a physically caused event. If physicalism and this strong causal closure principle are accepted, then supernatural interventions are ruled out tout court, while rejecting physicalism gives miracles metaphysical carte blanche. This paper argues for a more moderate version of physicalism that respects important physicalist intuitions about causal closure while allowing for miracles' logical possibility. A recent proposal for a specific mechanism for the production of miracles (Larmer (1996d)) is criticized and rejected. In its place, two separate mechanisms (suitable for deterministic and indeterministic worlds, respectively) are proposed that do conform to a more moderate physicalism, and their potential and limitations are explored.



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Published Citation

Kirk McDermid. “Miracles: Metaphysics, Physics, and Physicalism.” Religious Studies, vol. 44, no. 2, 2008, p. 125.