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Thread: A Possible Problem with the Problem of Induction?

  1. #1 A Possible Problem with the Problem of Induction? 
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    May 2013
    In section 4 of David Humeís Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he presents the famous problem of induction. His essential idea is that we are not justified to assert that the future will resemble the past. I generally agree with this, however, I do not understand how it completely vitiates the scientific method or any other form of inductive reasoning. Hume is certainly right when he says that there is no a priori reason to think that the future will resemble the past. However, in the past, we have always observed that the future does, in fact, resemble the past. Shouldn't this observation mean that we are slightly more justified in believing, for instance, that a pencil will fall toward the ground as oppose to float (even though we canít ever know with absolute certainty what will happen)? I say this because Hume tends to think that there is no difference between, for instance, the prediction that the pencil will fall and the prediction that the pencil will float. Aren't the laws presented by science at least slightly more reasonable because they have always been true in the past?


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  3. #2  
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    city of wine and roses
    When we have well-established scientific explanations for why pencils fall to the ground, all the way to why GPS works, it is wrong to think that pencils might float or satellites can't work because the earth is flat. It's not just a statistical likelihood that the future will resemble the past - that's for money markets and other speculative endeavours. Hume didn't know it, but he was conflating or confusing scientific thought with statistical analysis/ prediction. That confusion is still quite common nowadays among modern people who don't really understand how science works. Science uses statistical analysis, it isn't just statistics.

    It's sometimes a fun thought exercise about how it might be to live in a world that worked differently, but that doesn't justify thinking that all things are possible all the time. A person, and a pencil, will float in a zero gravity simulator but not as a matter of course. And certainly not in any way for reflecting on daily reality.

    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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