The problem of induction

There is first what I shall call the descriptive problem:

The problem of induction

Formulation of the problem[ edit ] Usually inferred from repeated observations: Usually not inferred from repeated observations: In inductive reasoningone makes a series of observations and infers a new claim based on them. For instance, from a series of observations that a woman walks her dog by the market at 8am on Monday, it seems valid to infer that next Monday she will do the same, or that, in general, the woman walks her dog by the market every Monday.

That next Monday the woman walks by the market merely adds to the series of observations, it does not prove she will walk by the market every The problem of induction. First of all, it is not certain, regardless of the number of observations, that the woman always walks by the market at 8am on Monday.

In fact, David Hume would even argue that we cannot claim it is "more probable", since this still requires the assumption that the past predicts the future. Second, the observations themselves do not establish the validity of inductive reasoning, except inductively.

Bertrand Russell illustrated this point in The Problems of Philosophy: We know that all these rather crude expectations of uniformity are liable to be misleading. The man who has fed The problem of induction chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.

But if they review some, the induction will be insecure, since some of the particulars omitted in the induction may contravene the universal; while if they are to review all, they will be toiling at the impossible, since the particulars are infinite and indefinite.

The focus upon the gap between the premises and conclusion present in the above passage appears different from Hume's focus upon the circular reasoning of induction.

However, Weintraub claims in The Philosophical Quarterly [5] that although Sextus's approach to the problem appears different, Hume's approach was actually an application of another argument raised by Sextus: This criterion, then, either is without a judge's approval or has been approved.

But if it is without approval, whence comes it that it is truthworthy? For no matter of dispute is to be trusted without judging. And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum.

Although the criterion argument applies to both deduction and induction, Weintraub believes that Sextus's argument "is precisely the strategy Hume invokes against induction: The Carvakaa materialist and skeptic school of Indian philosophy, used the problem of induction to point out the flaws in using inference as a way to gain valid knowledge.

Hume’s Problem of Induction

They held that since inference needed an invariable connection between the middle term and the predicate, and further, that since there was no way to establish this invariable connection, that the efficacy of inference as a means of valid knowledge could never be stated.

Here, "reason" refers to deductive reasoning and "induction" refers to inductive reasoning. First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relationswhich form the basis for what he refers to as "matters of fact".

He argues that causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds.

For example, when one thinks of "a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another", [14] one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc.


There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls.

In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise; for Hume, this is because the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction.

Next, Hume ponders the justification of induction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow. He uses the fact that induction assumes a valid connection between the proposition "I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect" and the proposition "I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar will be attended with similar effects".

This claim is supported by the same reasoning as that for causal relations above, and by the observation that even rationally inexperienced people can infer, for example, that touching fire causes pain. Hume challenges other philosophers to come up with a deductive reason for the connection.

If a deductive justification for induction cannot be provided, then it appears that induction is based on an inductive assumption about the connection, which would be begging the question. Induction, itself, cannot validly explain the connection.

Hume’s Problem

In this way, the problem of induction is not only concerned with the uncertainty of conclusions derived by induction, but doubts the very principle through which those uncertain conclusions are derived.

New riddle of induction Nelson Goodman 's Fact, Fiction, and Forecast presented a different description of the problem of induction in the chapter entitled "The New Riddle of Induction". Goodman proposed the new predicate " grue ". Something is grue if and only if it has been or will be, according to a scientific, general hypothesis [17] [18] observed to be green before a certain time t, or blue if observed after that time.

Problem of induction - Wikipedia

The "new" problem of induction is, since all emeralds we have ever seen are both green and grue, why do we suppose that after time t we will find green but not grue emeralds? The problem here raised is that two different inductions will be true and false under the same conditions.Hume’s Problem of Induction 1.

We naturally reason inductively: We use experience (or evidence from the senses) to ground beliefs we have about things we haven’t observed. In contemporary logic, epistemology, and the philosophy of science, there is now the problem of "enumerative induction" or universal inference, an inference from particular statements to general statements.

For example, the inference from propositions. Mar 21,  · The problem of meeting this challenge, while evading Hume’s argument against the possibility of doing so, has become known as “the problem of induction”. Hume’s argument is one of the most famous in philosophy.

The "problem of induction" arises when we ask whether this form of reasoning can lead to apodeictic or "metaphysical" certainty about knowledge, as the Scholastics thought.

The problem of induction

Thomas Aquinas especially thought that certain knowledge can be built upon first principles, axioms, . The Problem of Induction.


Hume himself does not use the word "induction". But what has come to be called "the problem of induction" comes down to us from . Problem of induction: Problem of induction, problem of justifying the inductive inference from the observed to the unobserved.

It was given its classic formulation by the Scottish philosopher David Hume (–76), who noted that all such inferences rely, directly .

The Problem of Induction