Posterity and Induction


Humans reason every day of their existence. Whether it is thinking about the weather or how to take a toaster apart, humans reason. Reasoning is paramount to the human condition. It is how we, as human beings, make inferences and arrive at conclusions according to what we observe. There are many types of reasoning that are included under the broad category of “reasoning.” One type of reasoning we use every day, completely unaware, is inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is a type of non-deductive reasoning that acts a basis for a majority of scientific developments. A philosopher by the name of David Hume questioned the justification for investing so much faith into induction; he believed that it is fundamentally flawed. There were a great many responses to Hume’s argument, one being the pragmatic solution which asserts that induction is necessary to human functionality. This response acts as a plausible solution to the problems of induction.
As mentioned earlier, induction is a type of non-deductive reasoning. The process of induction involves matter of fact, rather than relation of ideas. It concerns concepts which could conceivably exist in another manner. For example, a triangle’s angles adding up to 180 degrees is something we cannot visualize any other way. It is the relation of degrees to a triangle, and is absolute. Induction does not focus on necessity, but instead relies heavily on human observation. The principle nature of induction is the extrapolation of previously observed events to future events, or from the already observed to the unobserved. Induction has an inherent reliance on past experience: if a test has produced the same result 10 times out of 10 times, one can conclude the 11th attempt will yield the same result. One can assume that if every orange they have seen is orange, then all oranges must have the same properties. Past experience acts as a credible source for the prediction of future events. Nearly all contemporary science is based on induction. The basic limitations of humanity force scientists to rely on inductive reasoning. One cannot observe everything in the universe, nor can one guarantee an absolute.
Hume’s argument stems from the justification of induction. His claim is that we have no feasible justification for believing induction. There is no proof that the past in any way impacts the events of the future. Induction cannot be proved independent of human experience because it pertains to matters of fact. When a glass is dropped, one can conceive the possible result that it will, in fact, not break, or perhaps not even fall. Consequently, induction must be proved on the basis of human experience. This becomes quite problematic because Hume explains that such proof is circular. That is to say, that the conclusion and premises are dependent on each other. A detailed explanation of this theory of circular logic present in induction can be easily presented in an example. For instance, Bill has performed experiment X 100 hundred times and has arrived at N result every time. He believes his 101st attempt will also produce result N, because it has every other time. Joe insists that these prior events have no bearing on the future outcome and asks for a reason for Bill’s theory. Bill is using induction and Joe is utilizing Hume’s response. Bill says that every time he has encountered such a situation in the past (one relating to induction), induction has worked; so it will work in the present. Joe carefully asks Bill to examine his statement. Upon closer inspection it is clear that Bill is justifying the use of induction THROUGH induction. Circular logic is the only way to prove induction, and it is therefore invalid. Hume is stating quite simply that there is no justification for the use of induction and it should not be implemented in proper science.
Of the many responses to Hume’s argument, there is one in particular that both embraces and criticizes Hume’s logic. The main concept of this idea is the necessity of human function, of pragmatism. Nearly every aspect of our lives and theories is in some way rooted in the idea of induction. This view basically accepts that there is no true rebuttal to Hume’s argument, that he’s correct in his analysis of induction. However, because induction is so crucial to our everyday lives, we must, accept some standard. Nearly everything we say and do can be questioned due to the flaw of induction. So, while there may not exist some succinct refuting of Hume’s ideas, we still must use induction, for the sake of convenience. Simply put, life would be greatly more difficult without induction. Despite its shortcomings, it has been very successful in the past, and is required for much of our lives. One using Hume’s argument can easily defeat any statement which doesn’t have explicit empirical evidence. Consequently, we as a society must accept some standard believability for induction. I believe the aforementioned argument to Hume’s argument is remarkably successful. It accepts Hume’s claim that induction is unjustifiable but presents a unique concept that although the method of reasoning cannot be proved reliable without circular logic, it should still be used, out of convenience. We have arrived at a wall, so to speak, and the only way around it through being pragmatic. It is a realistic solution to the issues of induction raised forth by David Hume.

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António Jesus Batalha said...
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