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1 EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY 3. We are in a physics laboratory and make the observation that all objects fall at a uniform Can we solve the problem of induction, and if not, to what extent is it really a problem? (2493 words 1 ) acceleration in a vacuum. Maybe with the help of some theory we conclude that all objects - regardless of shape, size or mass - fall at a uniform acceleration in a vacuum. We also conclude that this will always be the case in the future. In this case we have again reached a general conlusion. But in this case we have reached a conclusion about a 1. Introduction complete state of affairs and an infinite set of events in one go. Imagine the following scenarios: In all three of the above examples we have reached a general conclusion from a finite or incomplete number of observations. This is what's known as induction or inductive 1. We are out on a boating cruise in the Pacific Ocean and discover a new island. Upon entering the island we are greeted by a flock of blue birds with very distinguishing features (they can't fly because their wings are upside-down, causing them to flap into the ground whenever they want to take off). For the first few days, we are scouting the island inference. In the first example our inductive inference was about things as they are everywhere. In the second example it was about things as they are forever. And in the third example - typically for science - the induction tells us what things are like everywhere and forever. and constantly come across these blue birds with upside-down wings. There are many other birds around on the island, but all of them can fly. All the birds we have encountered so far with upside-down wings are blue. After a while we conclude that all the birds on the island with upside-down wings are blue. We have reached a general conclusion about a complete set of states of affairs from observation of an incomplete set of states of affairs. 2 Induction is opposed to deduction, where a true general conclusion is reached from premises in virtue of the fact that the truth of the premises does not allow for the falsehood of the conclusion. This, however, is not the fact with induction: the truth of an inductively reached conclusion can not be guranteed by the truth of its premises. And this is exactly where a big problem arises, namely the problem of induction. 2. Every day we get up in the morning and our room is filled with sunlight. This does not in any way surprise us: the sun has risen every day of our lives and we assume that it will continue doing so for ever. Again, we have reached a general conclusion. This time, The problem of induction can be phrased as follows: How can we ever reach a general conclusion about a state of affairs or a set of events if we have no guarantee as to its validity. In other words: is induction rational? however, we have reached a conclusion about an infinite set of events from a finite number of observations of the event. 3 1 Excluding parentheses and footnotes. 2 Example partly taken from Arnold Zuboff 3 Example due to David Hume Who can really tell for sure that the sun will go up tomorrow morning? As Bertrand Russell states, a chicken, having been fed by the farmer every morning of its life, wakes up in full expectation of being fed but to its great surprise finds that it is led directly to the

3 logical rules that are used to prove the overall validity of deduction are themselves derived through deduction. 10 But has it? Popper seems to ignore the fact that even a falsifying observation is very much subject to the problem of induction. Obviously a falsifying observation will not be I now want to turn to the philosophy of science, and see the attempt made by Karl Popper to solve the problem of induction with this specific field in mind. relied upon when it is just made once, so the observation is emulated over and over again, in order to ensure that the falsification really is a falsification and not just merely some experimental error. But is not this repetition of falsifying observations just induction? 3. Induction and Science In addition to this problem, Popper has been said to give not only a dubious account of The philosophy of science is very much concerned with the problem of induction. The issues here are of two types: normative and descriptive. In other words, to what extent does induction actually play a part in scientific method and to what extent should it. The naïve inductivist can be said to claim that "If a large number of As have been observed under a wide how science should be handled, but also of how it has been handled. Thus, falsificationism is a bad description of a history of science that has brought us a great many scientific discoveries, and to reduce all future science to falsificationism would be to exclude all the valuable methods of the past. 11 variety of conditions, and if all those observed As without exception possessed the property B, then all As have property B." (Chalmers 1978:5). This position has its obvious drawbacks: 4. Induction and Epistemology: is there really a problem? how large is large? How wide is wide? And then there is the obvious problem of induction as stated above: where is the guarantee? In epistemology it is undisputed (and indeed undisputable) that beliefs are formed through using inductive inferences and not merely deductive ones. The problem of induction, Karl Raimund Popper claimed that inductivism is and should not be a tool of scientific enterprise. He offered an alternative that he thought would sweep the problem of induction out of the way: falsificationism. In short, Popper claimed that science was an ongoing process as seen from an epistemological point of view, can thus be formulated as: How can we really know about something if our knowledge is based on beliefs which are inferred inductively. of conjectures and refutation of conjectures through falsification, and that any conjecture that was not capable of being falsified was not worthy of being scientific and was thus pseudoscientific. Inductive methods play no part and hence the problem of induction can virtually be induction? At this point I would like to raise the question: is there really a problem with ignored and therefore has been "solved" as far as it concerncs science. 10 Papineau says that both the deductive defence of deduction and the inductive defence of induction are circular, but they are not premise-circular (ie the conclusion is not contained among the premises) which would make them vicious, but they are rule-circular, which does not necessarily make the argument vicious. Goodman even says that such circularity can be seen to be virtuous. (Papineaus 1993:157 ; Goodman 1953:64) 11 Recent theories by the likes of Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend try to incorporate both the historical and the normative aspects of a method of science by describing science as a more holistic research program, where observation and theory interactively support and refute each other. (Chalmers 19

5 -9- further, since we still have to define reliable, and attempts to do this often end up with an inductive defence of induction a potential opponent: a theory has then advanced to such an extent that only the most radical counterexamples could bring it down. And there is no doubt that the burden of proof in this case lies with the skeptics. Another way to define the right circumstances for the use of induction has been by using the notion of coherentism. 15 Coherentists would argue that an inductive inference would be justified if it is coherent with the rest of our beliefs. Coherentism takes us a long way, but there are some problems with it, as there are with coherentism in general 16. As we can see, the task of defining the right usage of induction is not an easy one in epistemology. I have tried to briefly present a few solutions that are mutually compatible, but Bibliography Audi, R. (1998) Epistemology. London: Routledge Chalmers, A.F. What is this Thing called Science? Dancy, J. (1985) Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology, Oxford: Basil Blackwell Grayling, A.C. (1995) Philosophy, a guide through the Subject, Oxford: OUP Hume, D. (1955) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ch.4.2. Papineau, D. (1993) Philosophical Naturalism, Oxford Popper, K.R. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London: Hutchinson need to point out, however, that the debate is still very much in action and that no solution has been generally agreed upon. 6. Conclusion At the beginning of this essay, I asked the question if the problem of induction could be solved? In this essay I have tried to show that we have to be careful about what the problem of induction really is and have concluded that there are really two problems. I have argued that the original problem of induction indeed cannot be solved, but that - at the same time - it is not really that much of a problem. Instead, it leads us to a second problem of induction, which is to find the circumstances in which induction can be seen as justifiable. And this seemed to pose us with a much bigger problem. To conclude, I want to add that my discussion of the subject of induction has very much let skepticism back in as a serious problem: the sun may indeed not rise tomorrow. But, as is often the case in epistemology, there is something comforting about having skepticism as 14 Papineau in Grayling 1995: Dancy 1985: eg are our sets of beliefs really coherent?

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