The Problem Of Induction

The following sample essay on The Problem Of Induction deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.

Explain the problem of induction- Discuss two different solutions to it. The problem of induction is the philosophical issue of whether using induction to justify our beliefs is reasonable. We have memories and experience from past events that allow us to prepare for the future. Although the future is not certain, using generalizations and predictions, we can assume with some certainty that, what will happen tomorrow, will be similar, if not the same as what happened today.

We use induction to predict events happening in the future or make generalizations based on previous information we have obtained for example, we can assume that during the day, the sun will pass over the sky and disappear at night. We can assume this because it has happened every day that we have cared to notice since we existed.

We also make generalizations, for example, every spider I have seen had exactly eight legs, and therefore I can say that the next spider I see will have eight legs also.

The conclusions of the above arguments arrived due to inductive reasoning but they do not necessarily have the same degree of certainty as the premises. Some spiders may carry a certain gene that when bred with a spider with a similar gene, may produce a six legged spider. Although the likely hood of that happening may be low, it is possible and therefore makes the argument invalid.

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Making a series of observations, however many, may be thought to imply a particular conclusion about some future event only if induction itself works. If a prediction turns out to be correct, it does not establish the reliability of induction, except inductively.

Explain Induction

How can a prediction or a conclusion to an inductive argument be justified? David Hume (1711-1776, cited in Sober, 2004) states that there is a missing premise in all inductive arguments. Inductive arguments take the form of Observation (1) in my experience, fires are hot Conclusion (2) therefore, all fires are hot Hume states that the inference from observation to conclusion is evidence that the induction argument above is not fully clear. Without a second thought, the argument passes from observation to conclusion and shows that we accept a principle connecting the two.

Hume formulates this missing premise as the claim that the future will resemble the past; a principle that is normally overlooked because everyone thinks it to be common sense, but it is present in every instance of inductive reasoning. What Hume suggests to make the inference from observation to conclusion valid is a premise that he calls the principal of the uniformity of nature (PUN) This principal does not claim that the future will resemble the past in every respect, it merely states that in some respect, the future will resemble the past.

The new argument takes the form Observation (1) in my experience, fires are hot (PUN) (2) Nature is uniform Conclusion (3) therefore, all fires are hot The above argument is now valid. The premises justify the conclusion. We must assume that PUN if an inductive argument is made. Sceptics may still find the conclusion not rationally justified and therefore would have to attack a premise. The obvious choice for a sceptic would be to attack premise 2. They would state that PUN is an inductive argument it self e. g. 1)For as long as I have observed, nature has been constant Therefore, (2) Nature in general is uniform An inductive argument cannot defend an inductive argument as that would be circular and PUN cannot be defended by a deductive argument as the observations we have made provide no evidence for this. Perhaps to defend the PUN, I could change the definition to fit a similar statement as “all circles are round. ” Hume rejected this by stating that there would be no contradiction in supposing that the universe should suddenly change (Sober, 2004).

Also PUN infers that the future resembles the past in some respect. This principal would not help me if I wanted to know how many legs spiders have in the future. If the future is only similar in some respect how can PUN be a reliable insight into the future? As shown above, PUN cannot be defended and therefore cannot be justified. Therefore the problem of induction is that all of the inductive inferences we make cannot be rationally justified, we cannot give a reason why we make the inferences we do.

Hume suggested a solution to the problem of induction; he stated that because of our natural beliefs and basic instincts. When we are all born with the acceptance of PUN, every human and every animal has this trait. Perhaps we have obtained this from the countless years of evolution or a gift from a divine being. Wherever it comes from, it is set so deeply in our minds that we have no real choice about whether to accept it. We are able to momentarily forget about the principal, but nature soon reasserts itself and we begin to make generalizations and assumptions.

Hume also state that when we are confronted with a natural belief, a belief that comes to us as naturally e. g. believing the sun will rise in the morning, we are rationally justified in accept it. A belief can be rational in this sense even though we cannot supply any convincing arguments for it. If two people therefore have different beliefs regarding the same situation e. g. the sun will rise tomorrow and the sun will not rise tomorrow, they can both be rationally justified if it is their natural beliefs that caused their decisions.

What we are rationally entitled to believe depends on what sort of beliefs we have, and not just on the available evidence and argument. In conclusion, the problem of induction does not have a definite solution that every can agree to. A possible solution may be to believe in what we naturally believe in.

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The Problem Of Induction
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