Friday, 24 September 2010


The classic philosophical treatment of the problem of induction was given by the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Hume highlighted the fact that our everyday functioning depends on drawing uncertain conclusions from our relatively limited experiences rather than on deductively valid arguments. For example, we believe that bread will nourish us because it has done so in the past, despite no guarantee that it will do so. However, Hume argued that it is impossible to justify inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning certainly cannot be justified deductively, and so our only option is to justify it inductively. However, to justify induction inductively is circular. Therefore, it is impossible to justify induction.
However, Hume immediately argued that even were induction proved unreliable, we would have to rely on it. So he took a middle road. Rather than approach everything with severe skepticism, Hume advocated a practical skepticism based on common sense, where the inevitability of induction is accepted.

1 comment:

Glaucus said...

scepticism | skeptsz()m | n. Also (arch. & N. Amer.) sk-. M17. [f. SCEPTIC + -ISM.] 1 Philos. The doctrine of the sceptics, Pyrrhonism; the opinion that real knowledge of any kind is unattainable. M17. 2 A sceptical attitude in relation to a particular branch of knowledge; doubt as to the truth of some assertion or apparent fact. Also, mistrustfulness, doubting disposition.

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