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Key to Induction: Distinguish General and Universal

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<p>Induction is a thorny philosophical problem: Given we’ve only observed some, how can we say a statement is true of all?</p>

<p>To solve this problem, we should distinguish general statements from universal ones and recognize the fundamental importance of the first. Here are generalizations:</p>

<p><a href="http://www.johnmccaskey.com/joomla/index.php/blog/73-general-vs-universal">Read More...</a></p>

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Hume's point was that 'pure' induction cannot give you a true statement. In other words, an accumulation of facts or instances doesn't naturally offer an explanation.

 

We need both background information and imagination in order to build a theory. In passing, lot's of what passes as background is necessity-driven milieu.

 

Kant went on to explain (Crit#3) that because our imagination is a natural faculty, we will never be short of generalized explanations that we hope to universalize, the real isuue, then,  is how to find the best imagination-generated  hypotheses. Also, since imagination is constant, the real issue is the facts themselves, or 'the understanding' (verstehen), Therefore, dare tio know.

 

Kant's rejection of analytic-anything was expanded upon by Quine: all analytics are nothing but hidden synthetics from which language has created a short-cut statement.

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Hume's point was that 'pure' induction . . . 

 

Be careful. Hume himself said virtually nothing about what in his day was called induction. The few times he used the term, he indicated that he saw no problem with it. Any claim about what Hume said about induction, pure or otherwise, requires you to read back into Hume some recent understanding of what the term means. If you say, “What Hume thought about induction is . . . . ,” you mean “What Hume thought about something that I, but not Hume, call induction is . . . .” It was Keynes who associated Hume with induction. Keynes point was: Even though Hume himself didn’t think what he said had anything to do with induction, we should think otherwise, having now a different conception of induction than Hume himself had.

Edited by John P. McCaskey
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Be careful. Hume himself said virtually nothing about what in his day was called induction. The few times he used the term, he indicated that he saw no problem with it. Any claim about what Hume said about induction, pure or otherwise, requires you to read back into Hume some recent understanding of what the term means. If you say, “What Hume thought about induction is . . . . ,” you mean “What Hume thought about something that I, but not Hume, call induction is . . . .” It was Keynes who associated Hume with induction. Keynes point was: Even though Hume himself didn’t think what he said had anything to do with induction, we should think otherwise, having now a different conception of induction than Hume himself had.

 Hume's words in THN, 89, although he never used the word 'induction'.:

 

"....methods that predict or infer, that instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience”

 

Such methods are clearly essential in scientific reasoning as well as in the conduct of our everyday affairs. The problem is how to support or justify them, which leads to a dilemma: the principle cannot be proved deductively, for it is contingent, and only necessary truths can be proved deductively.

 

Nor can it be supported inductively—by arguing that it has always or usually been reliable in the past—for that would beg the question by assuming just what is to be proved.

 

In other words, how do you tell a good from a bad induction? This, of course, is central to the establishment of causality, against which Hume was famously skeptical..so much so that kant was 'shaken out of his dogmatic slumber'.

 

Keynes was nudged by Ramsay (with Sraffa and Russell) to revitalize Hume for the purposes of attacking the epistemology of Classical Economics. "Hume's eggs" cannot apply for, say, the relationship between interest rates and investment over a period of time....etc... here, induction involves bad probability,

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McCaskey elaborates more on these claims in a draft of a book chapter on induction and concepts; the draft can be found online here: http://www.johnmccaskey.com/joomla/images/for-download/PittVolume.pdf

 

In it, he provides an overview of the history of two competing ways of viewing induction: induction as justifying propositional inference vs. induction as forming correct concepts and definitions.  Although the 'problem of induction' refers to the first view of induction, the second view was the prevalent one during Hume's lifetime.  Thus, on page 15, McCaskey writes:

 

"Eventually there was a turn away from Baconian induction [induction as forming proper concepts and definitions], but it did not start with David Hume. Hume wrote virtually nothing, or at least nothing critical, on what in his day was called induction. He said he intends to base the Treatise of Human Nature on the philosophy Bacon introduced. He uses the term induction there only twice, in both cases to defend some argument he is making. In none of the instances does Hume suggest he sees any problem with induction or has anything new to say about it. A century later, Whewell and his contemporary, John Stuart Mill, managed to write, between them, at least seven volumes on the history, theory, and practice of induction without finding it necessary to give Hume significant attention. As we will see, the association between Hume and induction is a result of developments in the late nineteenth century."
 
These 'developments' mainly refer to a shift in an understanding of what induction is, from Baconian induction to induction as justifying propositional inference.
 
I strongly encourage reading the entire paper.  I think it greatly clarifies the nature of the scientific process by which we gain new knowledge, and explains how this process can be successful even when the 'problem of induction' as associated with David Hume remains unsolved.
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 It seems to me that 'induction' or inductive reasoning comes in different types

1- observing and adding up particular instances which is simple enumeration. Many philosophers have pointed out the errors with this ap
proach. (Popper called it "observationalism" and erroneously tied it to Bacon, Francis Bacon called it 'puerile')

2- Justifying propositional inferences. This is problematic as Hume pointed out because it involves circular reasoning ("must be evidently going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point in question.") and Popper thought it would lead to an infinite regress. It also seems to treat induction like some sort of deductive argument. I am not sure how or when this justificationist approach started or came from but I guess it probably stems from John Locke and an attempt to answer intrinsicism. Come to think about it, the whole Platonic and Aristotelian traditions seem to have misleadingly been woven together with demands for justification. I think Popper's non-justificationist approach may have merit in this particular case after all. What do you think?

3- Forming good concepts and definitions i.e. induction as concept-formation (this article).This is I think the best tradition out of the three although I don't think it is all there is to Baconian Induction. More importantly, how does this tie-in with causality which I think is what induction is all about? and how does it relate to abstraction which is also necessary for induction? Also, what about the nominalist theory of concepts?

Edited by Mikee
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  • 2 weeks later...

I posted this to the web site, and maybe someone here could give me some feedback.

 

I see the "problem" of induction as having to do with measurement.  Imagine that if the only swans you ever saw were 12 lbs. Are you justified in making the statement: "All swans are 12 lbs."? No. Because....

 

.... swans are 12 lbs. only because your scale rounds their weight to the nearest pound. In fact, no two "12 lbs." swans weigh exactly the same amount, and a scale with a higher degree of accuracy would demonstrate this. If a swan pooped or lost a feather, his weight would change. This is true for all existents -- be they precisely tooled ball bearings or swans. Everything changes and even white swans vary in shades of white.

 

No two existents are ever EXACTLY identical and neither are two causes or two effects. Each moment in the Universe is unique  and never to be repeated. Everything is in a constant state of change. There are no Universals.

 

In any inductive statement, you must explicitly (or implicitly) state the degree of similarity that you are expecting to
observe.

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.... swans are 12 lbs. only because your scale rounds their weight to the nearest pound. In fact, no two "12 lbs." swans weigh exactly the same amount, and a scale with a higher degree of accuracy would demonstrate this. If a swan pooped or lost a feather, his weight would change. This is true for all existents -- be they precisely tooled ball bearings or swans. Everything changes and even white swans vary in shades of white.

 

Every electron has a rest mass of 9.10938291 × 10-31 kg

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Mikee said:
 

2- Justifying propositional inferences. This is problematic as Hume pointed out because it involves circular reasoning ("must be evidently going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point in question.") and Popper thought it would lead to an infinite regress. It also seems to treat induction like some sort of deductive argument. I am not sure how or when this justificationist approach started or came from but I guess it probably stems from John Locke and an attempt to answer intrinsicism. Come to think about it, the whole Platonic and Aristotelian traditions seem to have misleadingly been woven together with demands for justification. I think Popper's non-justificationist approach may have merit in this particular case after all. What do you think?

In the book mentioned by Dante, Mills a System of Logic, Prof. McCaskey and his colleague said:

 

Copelston and colleagues had to address two major challenges. One was
an assault on the syllogism. In the seventeenth century, most notably in Fran-
cis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620)/ there were criticisms that syllogistic
logic was about words and not things and therefore hollow and corrupt
. In
the late eighteenth century there was increasing criticism that the syllogism
committed the fallacy of petitio principii. The petitio principii charge states
that the syllogism is fallacious because knowledge of the major "contains"
or "presupposes" that of the conclusion/ Opponents also complained that
the syllogism cannot lead to new knowledge.

Now think on frank's comments:
 

Such methods are clearly essential in scientific reasoning as well as in the conduct of our everyday affairs. The problem is how to support or justify them, which leads to a dilemma: the principle cannot be proved deductively, for it is contingent, and only necessary truths can be proved deductively.

And then relate this to Dr. Peikoffs words:
 

Every truth about a
given existent(s) reduces, in basic pattern,
to: "X is one or more of the things which it
is." The predicate in such a case states some
characteristic(s) of the subject; but since it is
a characteristic of the subject, the concept(s)
designating the subject in fact includes the
predicate from the outset. If one wishes to
use the term "tautology" in this context, then
all truths are "tautological." (And, by the
same reasoning, all falsehoods are self-
contradictions.)
When making a statement about an
existent, one has, ultimately, only two
alternatives: "X (which means X, the
existent, including all its characteristics) is
what it is"-or: "X is not what it is." The
choice between truth and falsehood is the
choice between "tautology" (in the sense
explained) and self-contradiction.

And then read Prof. McCaskey's comment on his blog:
 

You are right to challenge my characterization of what it means to say something is generally true. If some judgment is true because of the kind of things the subject and predicate are (as I say), how could something be generally true without being universally so? That question gets to the very nature of predication. I should—and hopefully someday will—say more on that

Meaning, logic, language, conceptualization and induction are all inseparable....

Edited by Plasmatic
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Jake, every electron is in a different place from every other electron. This would still fail Buddha's test based on strict identity.

It seemed to me his point was that every swan is not 12 lb, because they actually vary from 11.5 to 12.5 lb. I was presenting a counter-example to show his case didn't support his argument, rather than commenting on the strict identity requirement.

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