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Lecture 20

Lecture 20 - Inductive Inferences

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University of Ottawa
Daniel Kofman

Nov. 21, 2013 1. Hume: “That the sun will nto rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a prposition and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation that it ill rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind.” (E IV 1, “Skeptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding”). So inductive inferences, such as empirical predictions, can never be “demonstrated” or proved. Their negation is equally possible. EXAMPLE (demonstrative proof – problem: presupposes exactly what is questionable – does the sun really rise every day? We can’t prove it).  Major premise: The sun rises every day  Minor premise: tomorrow is another day  Conclusion: tomorrow the sun will rise. 2. The problem of induction: inductive inferences cannot be rationally justified. 3. Yet: Reichenbach: If inductive inference were not rational, it would be just as rational to steer “towards” an object one was attempting to avoid as to steer “away” from it. Russell: “If the principle of induction is unsound, we have no reason to expect that sun to rise tomorrow, to expect bread to be more nourishing than a stone, or to expect that if we throw ourselves off the roof we shall fall. When we see what looks like our best friend approaching us, we shall have no reason to suppose that his body is not inhabited by the mind of our worst enemy or of some total stranger. All our conduct is based upon associations which have worked in the past, and which we therefore regard as likely to work in the future; and this likelihood is dependent for its validity upon the inductive principle.” -if it’s based on association, how can it be rational? 4. So if induction rational? Six approaches: 4.1 Skepticism (Hume) Epistemic or metaphysical? Subjectivisation: custom 4.2 “Transcendental” subjectivisation (Kant) – Causality is a “pure concept of the understanding gro
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