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  1. #1
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    Default A Note on the Problem of Induction

    A note to a friend regarding the problem of induction and Karl Popper.

    "Regarding the problem of induction, when analysed in the context of Popper's critical rationalism, where rationality concerns critical preference and not justification, the problem does not arise. In other words, critical rationalists do not presuppose any principle, such as that of induction, or the uniformity of nature. Instead, critical rationalists propose uniformity in nature through theories, and do not presuppose it to justify theories.

    In other words, critical rationalists do not presuppose, or commit to, any principle of induction, or uniformity of nature. It may be true, that for scientific investigation to bear fruit, nature must be uniform, but there is no need to presuppose it, since it is entirely possible that there is no uniformity. The purpose of scientific investigation is the search for laws that express regularities, though science cannot promise that there is anything to find.

    That there may be no scientific laws to find is a possibility, but not one that a critical rationalist is eager to accept, and thus makes a methodological decision: to search tirelessly for laws and regularities wherever they may be, to conjecture and experiment. Ironically, we arrive at the view that there is uniformity in nature, by trying our best to find disorder, to bring every theory which proposes order, to the severest tests and criticism.

    The problem of induction originally arose because it was supposed that synthetic statements must be justified by sense experience i.e. derivable from sense-data, or singular statements. That the principle of induction, or the uniformity of nature, are obviously synthetic statements, yet also irreducible to sense-data, or singular statements, caused the problem. It seemed that we could have no rational justification for any statement about the future.

    It is because critical rationalism employs sense experience as a means of criticism, rather than justification, that the problem of induction does not arise. In other words, the critical rationalist does not try to derive theories from sense experience, but tries to contradict theories with sense experience. The method is reversed, and the problem of induction dissolved."
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  2. #2

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    I pretty much agree with these statments regarding induction and universally quantified statements.

    But what about induction w/ respect to existentially quantified statements?

    How does a homocide investigator establish that a murder happened, who the killer is, how the murder was done, and what the motive was?

    How did scientists come to establish the existence of bat sonar, the existence of DNA, the existence of anti-particles...?

    How do we distiguish these successful puruits of existence, vs. existence of ESP, aliens visiting our planet, ....?

    Do we have to invoke some form of "induction" then?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    ygolo,

    I do not understand your confusion here, nor why induction would need to be invoked. You will have to be more explicit. As things stand, I am having difficulty thinking of a response because I am not clear on where the problem is.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    ygolo,

    I do not understand your confusion here, nor why induction would need to be invoked. You will have to be more explicit. As things stand, I am having difficulty thinking of a response because I am not clear on where the problem is.
    I guess I didn't know what the "problem of induction" was? I read some descriptions on it online.

    My current interpretation of the problem of induction is : "How do we go from knowledge of specific circumstances to knowledge of a universal law?"

    But initially I had interpreted to mean "How do we come up with new accurate knowledge through only deductive means?"

    With my initial interpretation, I saw that we could guess universal laws, decide what we expect in specific circumstances and see if we get what we expect.

    However, we cannot simply guess at existence statements, since a search for existence (say for ESP) could continue forever without being conclusive one way or another.

    But I suppose, a simple reformulation of statements to a universal form would suffice to use the "guess-and-check" procedure as well.

    In short, I was confused about what "the problem of induction" is and also made an error in splitting up universally quantified statements (For All ____, ____) and existentially quantified statements (There exists _____, such that ______), without realizing that even in cases like bat sonar, DNA, antiparticles, and even homicide investigations, universals that implied the existentiasl were actually what were being tested.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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