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Phil 8: Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Outline 2: Problem of Induction

I. Terminology
 Godfrey-Smith and I do not use “induction” and related terms in the same
way.
 My use: “Inductive argument” refers to any argument that is ampliative.
 Godfrey-Smith’s use: “Inductive argument” refers to any argument that
infers a generalization (e.g. All ravens are black) from particular observations
(e.g. raven 1 is black, raven 2 is black, raven 3 is black, etc.).
 Both uses are common in philosophy.
 I’ll reserve the term “enumerative inductive argument” for what Godfrey-
Smith calls an “inductive argument”.

II. The r value


 The r value represents the strength of an inductive argument. It is a real
number between 0 and 1.
 The r value is a measure of the support that the premises provide to the
conclusion.
 Confidence, like the r value, comes in degrees. Example: I am 10%
confident that it will rain tomorrow, and 99% confident that my dog is
currently in my house.
 If a subject is certain of the premises of an inductive argument, then the
inductive argument justifies her having a confidence equal to r in the
argument’s conclusion provided there is nothing else relevant about the
conclusion that she knows.

 To solve the problem of induction is to say why the conclusions of inductive


inferences are justified to any degree by their premises.
 The problem of induction is NOT that induction is fallible.

III. Hume’s Argument

 The argument:

Premise 1: The only way to justify induction would be to give a deductive argument
or an inductive argument.

Premise 2: No deductive argument can do the job.

Premise 3: No inductive argument can do the job.


Conclusion: Induction is not justified.

 Premise 1 seems true. All justificatory arguments appear to be either


deductive or inductive.
 Premise 2 seems true. Deductive arguments are non-ampliative but inductive
arguments are ampliative. A non-ampliative argument seems unable to justify
the conclusion of an ampliative argument.
 Premise 3 seems true. An inductive justification of induction would be
circular.
 Could induction be self-justifying?
o Consider counter-induction: inferring that unobserved instances are
not like observed instances.
o If induction is self-justifying, so is counter-induction.

IV. Principle of Uniformity of Nature

 PUN: Unobserved instances are like observed instances.


 We do believe that there are certain uniformities, or laws, that guarantee that
future occurrences will be like past occurrences.
 If we could justify the PUN, then it seems we could justify induction. But
we can’t simply see that the PUN holds.
 We can’t justify the PUN with deduction since we can’t deduce facts about
unobserved instances from facts solely about observed instances.
 We can’t justify the PUN with induction, since such an argument would
require that we already had a justification for the PUN:
 So, we can’t justify the PUN.