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Thoughts on my view of induction and deduction?

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Here is an email I wrote to my philosophy prof. Please leave your thoughts. (Keep in mind it is still under construction; and the specific formating I did in Word didn't transfer over).

Deduction (at best) is the Handmaiden of Induction

Case against Deduction

Deduction is bogus. Why?

The reason (psycho-epistemologically speaking) why deduction continued to bother me is that it has no referent in reality! It is like a flashlight that has to be continuously recharged; without which is just a stick of plastic and glass. It is a pointless science. The reason why deduction says "is the premises are true, the conclusion MUST be true" is an aribitrary choice. The converse could have been chosen as the standard, and the rest of the rules would logically follow from that.

To illustrate this, take the following argument (I may have already used it, but it is a good one):

Argument I-

P1 - All dogs are fish.

P2 - All Fish live on land.

C- Therefore, all dogs live on land.

This argument is valid, in the same respect that this is valid:

Argument II -

P1 - All dogs are animals.

P2 - All animals need food.

C - All dogs need food.

There is NO difference in validity between the I and II. NONE! We only accept I because we know its P1 and 2 are true. Truth is simply another plaything in Deduction. It, at best, is the handmaiden of induction.

Case for Induction

The main charge against Induction is, “At best, Induction creates probabilities, or a likelihood”. This is completely and unequivocally false. Why?

We as humans can only base our conclusions on what we know. What does that mean? It means that we as humans operate on our context of knowledge – the sum total of all the knowledge that is possible to us. The word all is important – it means we cannot know of something, until we know of it.

To illustrate this, take the often used example of “the world is flat”. Suppose we created a time machine that could take us back to the Middle Ages (ie. when the theory of “world flatism” was in prominence). The catch is, however, that in doing so, we would lose all of the knowledge that mankind has accumulated from then up until now. We (reluctantly) agree to do so, and we enter the machine. A few seconds later we appear in the Middle Ages. We find ourselves in a church, where there are some people talking about the latest ideas of the day. The most popular idea, the idea that everyone agrees on (except a few radicals, but they are probably a bunch of hedonist atheists anyway) that the world is flat. What evidence are they resting on? In other words, what evidence are they using? Perhaps they say that ships who dare try sailing past “the edge of the world” have not be able to (have died trying); for the simple fact that no one has tried and/or tried and returned. “Okay”, you say, “that seems to make sense”. After all, you are tabula rasa, and until you hear evidence which contradicts that, that principle is true. (Assume you have never heard of the contrary arguments which did in fact exist at that time). The next day you wake up and go and try and explore some more. This time, however, you hear some arguments which seem to refute “world-flatism”. Perhaps you hear the argument about the moon’s cycles, or of ships disappearing, then reappearing on the horizon, etc. This all seems to make sense, but as you are trying to digest all of this a boy runs into the church screaming, “Magellan has just returned from his voyage across the world, and boy were we wrong!”. This, to you, seems like undeniable proof that the world is round. If the world was flat, then Magellan, in order to complete his voyage, would have to stop at “the edge”, turn around, and come back. Clearly that wasn’t the case. Now that your context of knowledge has expanded, your conclusions may or may not change. You don’t start with a theory (out of now where) and try to validate it. It was just the opposite.

What is the nature of the fallacy that opponents of induction claim? They say that because a conclusion may change, we must somehow account for it. How? We can never say, they reason, that we know 100% about anything. We can only say 99%, or even 99.99999999%. But never 100%. This is wrong, wrong , wrong. Let us follow this thinking.

Suppose we wanted to account for the chance we are wrong. Basic probability says that the total possible outcomes of an event and each of their likelihoods must equal the total, or 1. In other words:

Event of A - A%

Event of non-A – non-A%

Total possibility (or possibility of something happening) – A% + non-A% (ie. the probability of A + the probability of any non A event) which must equal 100% (something must happen).

The problem? There is no way of applying that law to knowledge. Why? There is no knowledge of non-A’s existence (until we know of it – at which point there can be no legitimate distinction between A and non A. A would = non A (which is A))! Ergo, there is no way of calculating the probability of non-A’s occurrence!

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Well, you said this was under construction, but there's no way to judge an argument except by taking your words as if you meant them exactly, so that is what I will do.

The main charge against Induction is, “At best, Induction creates probabilities, or a likelihood”. This is completely and unequivocally false. Why?

We as humans can only base our conclusions on what we know. What does that mean? It means that we as humans operate on our context of knowledge – the sum total of all the knowledge that is possible to us. The word all is important – it means we cannot know of something, until we know of it.

This appears to be your main argument against the notion that induction is probabilistic, and it is flawed. Of course it is true that humans can only base our knowledge on what we know, but does your professor argue otherwise? I doubt it, which would make this a strawman. The typical real-world objection to induction is the problem of the "black swan" (modern science) or "sun still rising tomorrow" (Hume), which I don't see reflected in your email at all.

Secondly, you err when you equate the contextual nature of knowledge with the fact that we "cannot know of something until we know of it." This is not the significance of context: context is "the sum of cognitive elements conditioning an item of knowledge" (OPAR, p123). Its purpose is to remind you that all knowledge is interrelated, and that you can only understand some truth by also understanding its context.

Furthermore, you describe context as "the sum total of all knowledge that is possible to us." Context doesn't involve what is possible to know; it involves what we in fact know. "The sum total of everything we know" would have been a better description.

To illustrate this, take the often used example of “the world is flat”....

I'm sorry, I found your example of the "flat worldism" to be overly long and not that helpful. You claim that knowing Magellan circumnavigated the globe is a new context, but this is not a particularly illustrative example. A much better one would be Peikoff's example of blood types. At one time, it was believed that blood type B could be donated to blood type O. This was knowledge. Over time, they discovered the existence of the Rh factor, which complicates things. However, and this is the key, this did not mean that the old knowledge of "B blood can be donated to an O type" was wrong. Understood in its context, which did not include knowledge of Rh, this was and is a true statement. The contextual nature of knowledge means that all statements implicitly carry the proviso, "within the known context." When that context is later expanded, the form of the statement changes ("B blood can be donated to an O type if they share the same Rh factor"), but the earlier facts are unchanged.

Does this contrast illustrate why Magellan's success at navigating the globe is not a new context, but a new fact that contradicts a prior claim? A sea-faring example would be the old knowledge that you had to wait for a prevailing wind to sail to the new world. Of course, this is assuming the context of ships powered by sail. If you introduced a steam-powered ocean liner, the old statement would still be true, properly understood: ships (that is, sailing ships) need to wait for a prevailing wind to get to the new world. The discovery of steam power did not invalidate the knowledge that sailing ships required wind for motion--and that is the role of context in epistemology.

Deduction is bogus. Why?

The reason (psycho-epistemologically speaking) why deduction continued to bother me is that it has no referent in reality! It is like a flashlight that has to be continuously recharged; without which is just a stick of plastic and glass. It is a pointless science. The reason why deduction says "is the premises are true, the conclusion MUST be true" is an aribitrary choice. The converse could have been chosen as the standard, and the rest of the rules would logically follow from that.

Deduction, properly understood, is not bogus. Don't be so eager to "save" induction that you throw out its twin. Induction gives us generalization, which is good (without that every situation would be entirely unknown to us), but deduction gives us concretization, which is just as important (without it, we'd have know way of applying all those great principles that induction gave us).

So, the overall criticism: This reads like something thrown together without much editing. Many paragraphs could be distilled quite a bit, and you have several examples thrown in "drive-by" style. I realize it's not a paper, but writing about philosophy requires editing and exact consideration of words.

On the other hand, I applaud your attempt to learn philosophy by writing in your own words and with your own examples, even as they are. Your email is nearly free of "Objectivist bromides" and appeals to authority that plague many new would-be Objectivists' writing. This means that at the start your words will be far worse than Rand's, but if you keep at it, you will hone your own voice and easily overtake those who never did anything but parrot her words.

And thanks for giving me a chance to sharpen my own understanding of these issues!

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... deduction ... has no referent in reality! ... It is a pointless science.

Your problem is that you do not understand the PURPOSE of deduction.

Have you never worked out a puzzle? Or figured out how to drive from one address to another? Or solved problems on an examination in mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, etc.? Or made a budget for your monthly expenditures? Or learned how to operate the remote control for your television?

All of these things require deductive reasoning to be efficient. You cannot afford to spend your whole life just blindly stumbling around until you happen upon the answer to your problems. You must understand the structure of the problem and make a plan in order to be effective. That is what deductive reasoning is.

Deductive logic is neither arbitrary nor irrational. It is merely more abstract and precise than informal ways of thinking. It is the most general way of solving problems. It is the method on which you can fall back when more specialized methods do not apply.

Deductive logic allows you to separate out and examine each of your assumptions. And it enables you to make sure that you have explored all the implications of your observations. Also see my Post #18 in "Perfecting Logic".

The reason why deduction says "if the premises are true, the conclusion MUST be true" is an arbitrary choice. The converse could have been chosen as the standard, and the rest of the rules would logically follow from that.

I am not entirely clear on what your objection is. The rules of deductive logic are the opposite of arbitrary -- they are necessary.

If you are correct in saying the the rules of deductive logic are arbitrary, then you should be able to propose an alternative and show that it would work just as well as the standard version. It should not be merely the result of changing the names of the operators of the standard version.

Edited by Free Thinker
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The reason (psycho-epistemologically speaking) why deduction continued to bother me is that it has no referent in reality! It is like a flashlight that has to be continuously recharged; without which is just a stick of plastic and glass. It is a pointless science.
Very briefly, given a proper deduction, a deduced conclusion which is perceptually false is a proof that you hold at least one incorrect premise. This should lead you to restate your premises so that they are not false. Thus deduction does have a vital psycho-epistemological point: it forces you to come to grips with the concrete consequences of your claims, and to check your premises. Edited by Free Thinker
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I don't have time to answer all of your arguments individually, but here are a few of my observations:

1. I am NOT saying deduction can be thrown out. When I said it is "bogus", it was a result of my frustration. Did anyone read the title of this thread? It you take out "at best" (which was supposed to be funny), I say "Deduction is the Handmaiden of Induction". Thus, Deduction is necessary, but it can NEVER produce new knowledge. All it does is create new relationships.

2. I understand the nature of "context", and perhaps I was misusing the concept. I retract that. Of course there will never be a bit of knowledge which proves A actually = B. The fundamentals are immutable.

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1. I am NOT saying deduction can be thrown out. When I said it is "bogus", it was a result of my frustration. Did anyone read the title of this thread? It you take out "at best" (which was supposed to be funny), I say "Deduction is the Handmaiden of Induction". Thus, Deduction is necessary, but it can NEVER produce new knowledge. All it does is create new relationships.

Speaking only for myself, I did read your title, and then I read this (emphasis added):

Deduction is bogus. Why?

The reason (psycho-epistemologically speaking) why deduction continued to bother me is that it has no referent in reality! It is like a flashlight that has to be continuously recharged; without which is just a stick of plastic and glass. It is a pointless science. The reason why deduction says "is the premises are true, the conclusion MUST be true" is an aribitrary choice. The converse could have been chosen as the standard, and the rest of the rules would logically follow from that.

Truth is simply another plaything in Deduction. It, at best, is the handmaiden of induction.

As I said at the start of my post:

Well, you said this was under construction, but there's no way to judge an argument except by taking your words as if you meant them exactly, so that is what I will do.
I responded to what you wrote, not what you wanted to write, and the fact remains that your claims about deduction are false.

Thus, Deduction is necessary, but it can NEVER produce new knowledge. All it does is create new relationships.

I think Burgess gave you the best answer to that: are "new relationships" not new knowledge? Or did you mean "principles" when you said "knowledge"? If so, this is an indication of the need for meticulous care when writing about philosophy. (Incidentally, Burgess deserves praise for his precise use of language; he regularly distinguishes between such near-synonyms as "attribute, aspect, and quality.")

* Edited to fix a typo. I need more meticulous care myself. :P

Edited by Free Thinker
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The essay itself - a case against deduction - is full of deductive arguments from start to finish.

OH MY GOD!!! You are all missing the POINT!!! FORGET about the first part, if it really bothers you. I achieved something in my defense of Induction that you ALL are missing. I may have been wrong about deduction, but that is because you don't understand the frustration I was going through in learning how it works. What you are all doing is semantics!

Please, please, please just re-read the second part and understand what I have made.

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OH MY GOD!!! You are all missing the POINT!!! FORGET about the first part, if it really bothers you. I achieved something in my defense of Induction that you ALL are missing. I may have been wrong about deduction, but that is because you don't understand the frustration I was going through in learning how it works. What you are all doing is semantics!

Calm down. You might get an analysis on the limited part of your email that you are interested in if you acknowledged the truth that others have pointed out regarding your repeated, mistaken claims about deduction and context. Speaking personally, I offered an in-depth analysis of your post on two separate points and you pretty much brushed off both of those without even a "thanks." I'm not sure why I should offer more analysis.

Please, please, please just re-read the second part and understand what I have made.

And if we point out any problems in your proof of induction, will those too be called "semantics"? Just what were you looking for by posting here?

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Please, please, please just re-read the second part and understand what I have made.
Well, if we just delete your first part and focus on the second, you don't identify the fundamental issues from the very start, and that is what you should do. The argument against induction is based on "possibility of error"; deductive reasoning also not bullet-proof; human fallibility is therefore irrelevant to evaluating methods of reasoning since it doesn't make any distinctions. Unless you have a concrete reason for focusing on this "probabilities" issue (for example, you are doing this for a course on Epistemological Foundations of Statistics) I would drop the discussion of "probability" (expecially since the term covers three different concepts). You do not concentrate nearly enough on inductive generalization, i.e. deriving universally quantified statements, nor do you concentrate enough on is the concept of causation. Assuming you have a good understanding of how causation and universal quantification are relevant to induction, that would be the right place to start. However, what's puzzling is why you are writing a defense of induction -- that makes it seem as though there is some established argument that you're working against, and that is important context that needs to be provided in order for anyone to judge whether you have succeeded or failed in this argument. Edited by Free Thinker
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Thus, Deduction is necessary, but it can NEVER produce new knowledge. All it does is create new relationships.

Of course it produces new knowledge. What would be the point of doing a calculation, if it did not produce new knowledge? For example, sometimes a physical theory is discovered to lead to a contradiction. Then you know that the theory can be dismissed as nonsense.

Some people will object that the conclusions are implicit in the premises and so they are not NEW information. But they are new to you when you first arrive at them in your calculations.

There is no knowledge of non-A's existence (until we know of it – at which point there can be no legitimate distinction between A and non A. A would = non A (which is A))!

This is the crux of your argument; and it is nonsense as it stands. Would you care to clarify it?

Edited by Free Thinker
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OH MY GOD!!! You are all missing the POINT!!! FORGET about the first part, if it really bothers you. I achieved something in my defense of Induction that you ALL are missing. I may have been wrong about deduction, but that is because you don't understand the frustration I was going through in learning how it works. What you are all doing is semantics!

Please, please, please just re-read the second part and understand what I have made.

I must say, I liked the point that said that the possibility of new knowledge cannot be correctly put into a statistical form. That was good. I didn't find that point in an argument I had with a philosophy student.

Thanks for that.

But you have to at least be thankful for the good criticism the others gave you. You have to admit that it was honest and valuable. It wasn't just semantics. They showed you, for example that without deduction, the concepts you formed by your induction process cannot be checked and that you need both, induction and deduction, for rational thinking.

You are right that deduction can only work with the concepts induction provides it with, which always makes induction come first. Deduction is just applying logic to concepts and seeing where it goes. So deduction is dependent on the concepts it is based on.

But this very deduction process allows you to validate or invalidate your premises.

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Firstly, I was not thinking clearly. You were right to attack my attacks on deduction. I apoligize.

Secondly, let us begin again. Here is a better summation of my thoughts (again expressed in an email to my prof):

"Lets see is I got this right. Induction produces [high -good/low-bad]

levels of certainty because of the nature of the logic itself. Deduction is

setup such that it is impossible for both the premises to be true and the

conclusion false (if a connection exists between them); thus includes an

inherent truth/falsity preserver. Induction, however, does not guarantee

such a property. It is conceivable, although perhaps very unlikely in some

cases (ie. gravity), for the premises to be true, and the conclusion false.

This doesn't apply in every case, but the possibility is there.

If that is true, then I would disagree and agree. I say that an inductive conclusion

only speaks to its premises, not the future. I grant you that the link you

are looking for [between inductive premises and it's conclusions] doesn't

exist qua existing, but in a sense it does. I see how one might think there

is an inherent uncertainty involved in induction, but I think that as long

as one says "I am 100% sure about THESE ravens being black ("these ravens"

being all the ravens I have observed), one should be fine. In other words,

as long as one sets one's frame of reference.

Ammanuel"

I am going to try and keep my emotions out of my arguments from now on. (The same thing happened between Felipe and I on the "Batman Begins" thread)

Thirdly, I don't have the time to read through all of your posts as there are now, so please try and keep your arguments as concise as possible ( I will try and do the same).

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Firstly, I was not thinking clearly. You were right to attack my attacks on deduction. I apoligize.

Secondly, let us begin again. Here is a better summation of my thoughts (again expressed in an email to my prof):

I'll have a go. First, this is much more clear than your previous email. However, I still noticed some issues.

I see how one might think there is an inherent uncertainty involved in induction, but I think that as long as one says "I am 100% sure about THESE ravens being black ("these ravens" being all the ravens I have observed), one should be fine. In other words, as long as one sets one's frame of reference.
Unfortunately, if you limit your statements to what you've already observed, it isn't induction. Neither "all the ravens I've ever seen are black" nor "the sun has risen every day of my adult life" are examples of induction. The "problem of induction" doesn't come in until you generalize to predicting unknown situations (i.e., the next raven or the sun's action tomorrow).

Furthermore, concluding "all ravens are black" from "all ravens I have seen are black" is not induction, because 1) there is no known cause-and-effect relationship between the species of raven and the color of their feathers, and 2) it's an unwarranted generalization because most animals show color variation. Remember that a conclusion cannot contradict any existing knowledge. On the other hand, the earth going around the sun is a cause-and-effect relationship, and thus a true instance of induction.

I grant you that the link you are looking for [between inductive premises and it's conclusions] doesn't exist qua existing, but in a sense it does.

I am not clear on what "exist qua existing" means. If this is essential to your argument, it would help me to know what you mean.

Edited by Free Thinker
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"Unfortunately, if you limit your statements to what you've already observed, it isn't induction. Neither "all the ravens I've ever seen are black" nor "the sun has risen every day of my adult life" are examples of induction. The "problem of induction" doesn't come in until you generalize to predicting unknown situations (i.e., the next raven or the sun's action tomorrow). "

Could you elaborate? You raise two points I don't understand:

1. Why you don't consider my raven's example to be an example of induction?

2. Is "the problem of induction" really a problem?

"Furthermore, concluding "all ravens are black" from "all ravens I have seen are black" is not induction, because 1) there is no known cause-and-effect relationship between the species of raven and the color of their feathers, and 2) it's an unwarranted generalization because most animals show color variation. Remember that a conclusion cannot contradict any existing knowledge. On the other hand, the earth going around the sun is a cause-and-effect relationship, and thus a true instance of induction."

Okay. So the only true form of induction involves a "cause and effect" relationship? I used the raven example because that is an example by prof used to attack induction.

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All right, now we're getting somewhere. :P

Could you elaborate? You raise two points I don't understand:

1. Why you don't consider my raven's example to be an example of induction?

Well, let me make sure you understand what I mean when I said that your statement ("I am 100% sure about THESE ravens being black") does not even qualify as induction. To be induction, you have to reach a conclusion in general, from some number of particular observations. Your statement says nothing about all ravens, and thus it is only a summary of your observations.

Now, there is a classic example of induction that uses ravens (well, swans as I heard it): "I have seen N ravens, and they are all black; thus, all ravens everywhere are black (including those I haven't seen yet)." Of course, that was not your example because you left off the "thus" part, but that is undoubtedly the argument your professor is referring to.

2. Is "the problem of induction" really a problem?
It is a problem only in the sense that there is a "problem of universals"--specifically, there isn't a problem in fact, but there is a problem in philosophy. It's been under attack since at least Hume, and as your professor demonstrates, the solution is still not apparent to most philosophers. Thus if you want to argue against it with your professor, you will have to understand exactly what they mean by the problem of induction so you prove their argument false, and not some strawman.

And don't kid yourself--induction is not simple, and is in many ways still an unsolved problem. I know Peikoff was working on a theory of induction, and there was a fascinating discussion on it on this forum over a year ago (in fact, it was the strength of that discussion that convinced me to join). I found two at http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=1272 and http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=3974. Betsy's posts, in particular, were enlightening to me.

Okay. So the only true form of induction involves a "cause and effect" relationship? I used the raven example because that is an example by prof used to attack induction.

Yes, without the causal connection, you are in Hume's boat, never knowing if you will meet an albino raven tomorrow. (Again, I recommend those links above.) Of course, it is exactly this lack of causality that makes the raven argument (or any other "counting" type of induction) so popular with professors. At best, that argument is a hasty generalization, because there are no grounds to go from "some" to "all" in this case.

I realized something recently that amused me (I think it came from the second link above). If you scratch an anti-induction professor, you will usually end up with a simple contradiction: the "proof" that induction is false is itself an inductive proof!

Ask yourself how the professor knows that all inductive arguments are false. He hasn't analyzed every single possible argument, has he? All he can have analyzed is a few separate instances. Yet he concludes that all induction is false. This is the inductive step, being used to deny induction.

This is why one can say induction is valid, even if one cannot yet demonstrate the validity of any inductive argument. The arguments against it are as self-refuting as "there are absolutely no absolutes" or "you certainly can't know anything for certain."

Did that help answer your questions?

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All right, now we're getting somewhere. B)

Yes, without the causal connection, you are in Hume's boat, never knowing if you will meet an albino raven tomorrow. (Again, I recommend those links above.) Of course, it is exactly this lack of causality that makes the raven argument (or any other "counting" type of induction) so popular with professors. At best, that argument is a hasty generalization, because there are no grounds to go from "some" to "all" in this case.

I realized something recently that amused me (I think it came from the second link above). If you scratch an anti-induction professor, you will usually end up with a simple contradiction: the "proof" that induction is false is itself an inductive proof!

Ask yourself how the professor knows that all inductive arguments are false. He hasn't analyzed every single possible argument, has he? All he can have analyzed is a few separate instances. Yet he concludes that all induction is false. This is the inductive step, being used to deny induction.

This is why one can say induction is valid, even if one cannot yet demonstrate the validity of any inductive argument. The arguments against it are as self-refuting as "there are absolutely no absolutes" or "you certainly can't know anything for certain."

Did that help answer your questions?

It helps (so thanks :P ), but I am not entirely convinced. Before I say anything else, I think it is important that I read through the suggested links. Here is what I understand from your post:

1. The answer to "the problem" is still being worked on, but it has to do with the jump from "some" to "all". I realize that I conceded the case that we can never know it a (for instance) raven will be black tommorow, or the sun will rise, etc. That is any important question though. How DO we know that tommorow some wave of energy will come from nowhere and blot out the sun for a day; or make ravens white, or something. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that all things have identity, so those existents both can't contradict their nature, and for something (a wave, for instance) to come out of no where doesn't mean that it transcends reailty. I am just uncomfortable with trying to predict the future, which is what I interpret you as doing.

2. Perhaps anti-inductionists devolve into contradictions, but I can only be sure of that until I know what induction means.

3. I feel really embarassed. I sounded like such an idiot.

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1. The answer to "the problem" is still being worked on, but it has to do with the jump from "some" to "all". I realize that I conceded the case that we can never know it a (for instance) raven will be black tommorow, or the sun will rise, etc. That is any important question though. How DO we know that tommorow some wave of energy will come from nowhere and blot out the sun for a day; or make ravens white, or something. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that all things have identity, so those existents both can't contradict their nature, and for something (a wave, for instance) to come out of no where doesn't mean that it transcends reailty. I am just uncomfortable with trying to predict the future, which is what I interpret you as doing.

The purpose of induction is not to predict the future, per se. (This is another strawman used to attack induction.) Obviously you cannot predict the future with 100% certainty (that would require omniscience--and who knew last year that New Orleans would be flooded this September?). Remember, the purpose of induction is to establish the principles that arise from the nature of reality, not to "predict the future." No principle will allow you to say "the sun will definitely rise tomorrow, no matter what"--that would be predicting the future, and how do we know that something won't actively knock the earth off its axis?

What a valid principle (reached through induction) does allow us to say is that if the forces remain as they are, then it will always result in the sun rising (technically, appearing to rise) every day. This seems obvious and circular--"of course it will do the same thing unless it something makes it stop--what good is that?" You have to realize that to Hume, the earth literally could stop spinning tomorrow. He recognized the insufficiency of the fact that it has spun all this time, but could not seem to grasp the causality that is causing it to rotate. Thus for him, it could stop without reason. (And, of course, this same view is held by those who believe in miracles.)

However, for us non-Humeans, the principle of the earth's rotation applies in a context (recall my previous post on context, which you thought was irrelevant to this discussion). That context is, "given the conditions we have stated." Those conditions exclude "a wave of energy hitting the earth," for instance, but do not exclude "people moving around and satellites being launched," which we know will not affect the earth's rotation significantly.

Furthermore, even granting that causality is key, this alone still does not give us the knowledge to say the earth will keep rotating forever, without the contribution of many physicists since Newton. What if the earth loses energy due to friction every day? (I suspect this is the case, but then I am no physicist.) In that case, the principle we would reach is "the earth will rotate twice as slowly approximately N billion years from now." Suppose instead that the solar system is a perpetual motion machine (which I doubt). In that case, we could say that it will rotate forever. (A more real-world example is the realization that the sun is burning down, and thus will not burn forever, past behavior notwithstanding.)

The point is that inducing a principle correctly requires sufficient knowledge of the subject to understand the underlying causes and their effects. Armchair philosophy or a simple "it has always been that way" approach is not valid induction.

Here's the payoff: to an Objectivist, the failure of something we expected (the sun to rise tomorrow) proves there is an unknown cause at work, one that we do not understand (and should go investigate). To a Humean, it proves nothing (except that we can know nothing)--nothing had caused the earth to rotate, and so nothing caused it to stop.

3. I feel really embarassed. I sounded like such an idiot.

No need to feel embarassed. Everyone is ignorant at the start--I certainly was (and am). Now you have the advantage of a better understanding, which you never would have if you had not "sounded like an idiot" as you put it and learned what mistakes you were making.

And, as always, thanks for giving me a chance to improve my own thinking. By the way, I cannot recommend highly enough the clarity of Dr. Peikoff in OPAR on this matter (p173-175, primarily). I am definitely standing on the shoulders of giants.

Edited by Free Thinker
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The point is that inducing a principle correctly requires sufficient knowledge of the subject to understand the underlying causes and their effects.

Here's the payoff: to an Objectivist, the failure of something we expected (the sun to rise tomorrow) proves there is an unknown cause at work, one that we do not understand (and should go investigate).

Expounding on your sun example:

Suppose we found the cause of the sun rising (S) to be A. In other words, we observe S, and so by definiton, a cause MUST exist, which we find to be A. In other words, regardless of our knowledge of the specifics of A, we know that A MUST exist (otherwise S wouldn't exist/occur).

Let's say tommorow, the sun doesn't rise. That means that we have an unprecedented event (an event which was not based on any known causes); an event which we didn't know would occur (I'll call it S2). Why did we not know of S2 (why could we not account for it?) Because we didn't know the existence of the causes for S2. If we can't account for ALL possible instances of the sun not rising, then how can we make a universal? We can because we say, "given our CONTEXT of knowledge [about the sun], the sun will always rise". Our context of knowledge is always expanding; meaning our knowledge of the sun's properties is always growing. Meaning, our universal statements about the sun may or may not change, BUT THEY CAN. If event S2 occured, and we discovered the reason (A2 - some ether or alien or something), we would say, "the sun always rises, except when A2 is effects it". In other words, the word universal is almost a misnomer - because it can change.

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In other words, the word universal is almost a misnomer - because it can change.
Perhaps you should consider a different example. One need not observe very many balls rolling across tilted surfaces to conclude, by induction, that this is an inherent property of balls. Balls, under certain conditions, will roll.

Now suppose someone shows you a ball that is glued to a surface, and thus remains stationary no matter how the surface is tilted. Does this case refute your inductive conclusion? Certainly not. Your conclusion remains perfectly valid, and it will continue to be true that, under certain conditions, balls will roll.

The fact that you may not be able to predict whether those conditions will be present the next time you observe a ball on a tilted surface proves only that you are not omniscient. It means nothing about the validity of your inductive conclusion.

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Expounding on your sun example:

Suppose we found the cause of the sun rising (S) to be A. In other words, we observe S, and so by definiton, a cause MUST exist, which we find to be A. In other words, regardless of our knowledge of the specifics of A, we know that A MUST exist (otherwise S wouldn't exist/occur).

Let's say tommorow, the sun doesn't rise. That means that we have an unprecedented event (an event which was not based on any known causes); an event which we didn't know would occur (I'll call it S2). Why did we not know of S2 (why could we not account for it?) Because we didn't know the existence of the causes for S2. If we can't account for ALL possible instances of the sun not rising, then how can we make a universal? We can because we say, "given our CONTEXT of knowledge [about the sun], the sun will always rise". Our context of knowledge is always expanding; meaning our knowledge of the sun's properties is always growing.

That's not a bad summary, although there are some errors.

Meaning, our universal statements about the sun may or may not change, BUT THEY CAN. If event S2 occured, and we discovered the reason (A2 - some ether or alien or something), we would say, "the sun always rises, except when A2 is effects it". In other words, the word universal is almost a misnomer - because it can change.

I disagree about the term "universal" though (by which I presume you mean "absolute"--the word "universal" traditionally refers to concepts or abstractions like "table"). Dr. Peikoff makes the distinction between the traditional notion of "absolute" (that is, out-of-context) and "contextually absolute." Like the word "individual" in "individual rights," "contextually" is redundant--there is no other kind of absolute. Regardless, it is necessary for exactly the reasons that lead you to reject the notion that truth can ever be "universal."

Perhaps you should consider a different example. One need not observe very many balls rolling across tilted surfaces to conclude, by induction, that this is an inherent property of balls. Balls, under certain conditions, will roll.

Good point. In fact, Betsy Speicher has made a compelling argument that all you really need is one ball to observe. Every ball after that serves to confirm your understanding, but adds nothing new to it. (Of course, you need more than one observation of a ball to form the concept of, roughly, "a round object" so you can say "all balls roll," because concept-formation involves grasping similarities between instances. Grasping causality--the essence of induction--doesn't require the same comparison of two instances.)

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Good point. In fact, Betsy Speicher has made a compelling argument that all you really need is one ball to observe. Every ball after that serves to confirm your understanding, but adds nothing new to it. (Of course, you need more than one observation of a ball to form the concept of, roughly, "a round object" so you can say "all balls roll," because concept-formation involves grasping similarities between instances. Grasping causality--the essence of induction--doesn't require the same comparison of two instances.)

That is fantastic! So all one REALLY needs to do is understand the fundemental properties of an existent, and the interaction that that existent MAY have with other aspects of reailty just follows - in other words nothing will change about a ball, or a sun. All that may change is our understanding of it's relation with other existents?

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"All knowledge is contextual" -ITOE pg. (I'll look it up later)

Do not forget this. The fault in your argument about "predicting the future" and the consequential "there is a possibility of another outcome" is forgetting the fact that all knowledge is contextual.

The "absolutism" of the induction of casualty relies on a specific context.

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If you scratch an anti-induction professor, you will usually end up with a simple contradiction: the "proof" that induction is false is itself an inductive proof!

Ask yourself how the professor knows that all inductive arguments are false. He hasn't analyzed every single possible argument, has he? All he can have analyzed is a few separate instances. Yet he concludes that all induction is false. This is the inductive step, being used to deny induction.

This is why one can say induction is valid, even if one cannot yet demonstrate the validity of any inductive argument. The arguments against it are as self-refuting as "there are absolutely no absolutes" or "you certainly can't know anything for certain."

The question is not of induction being true or false, but rather of it being valid or invalid, reliable or unreliable, correct or not correct. Who are the professors who say that all inductive arguments are false? What would it even mean to say that all inductive arguments are false? On the other hand, if one claims that induction is valid, then the burden is to justify that claim. Nor could I evaluate your claim that to argue against induction is to infer from the falsity (whatever that means pertaining to argument forms) of some inductions to the falsity of all of them, unless you pointed to such anti-induction arguments that have been made and what else goes into them. Meanwhile, most basically, the famous argument, whatever its merits, against arguments for induction is that arguments for induction are question begging, since the most basic argument in support of inductive reasoning is itself inductive. Edited by LauricAcid
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Meanwhile, most basically, the famous argument, whatever its merits, against arguments for induction is that arguments for induction are question begging, since the most basic argument in support of inductive reasoning is itself inductive.
Arguments for deduction are certainly question begging, since there is no requirement that the premises of a deductive argument be proven to be true. There are no deductive arguments that derive the conclusion that deduction is T-preserving.
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