The Problem Of Induction Philosophy Essay

The subject of induction has been thrown around in philosophy of science circles since the eighteenth century. Hume’s was the first one who introduced to the world the problem of induction. Although, the problem was firstly introduced by Hume, Hume filed to identify a good solution to the problem of induction. on the other hand , there were many philosophers who respond to Hume’s problem of induction and they offered a great deal of solutions such as Karl Popper, Chalmers.

This essay will focus on investigating Hume’s problem of induction alongside the responses it attracted. Also, it will highlight some of the suggested resolutions to the problem of induction.Induction is based on looking at observable phenomena and then making conclusions.


The subject of induction has been argued in philosophy of science circles since the 18th century when people began wondering whether contemporary world views at that time were true(Adamson 1999). David Hume’s ‘Problem of Induction’ introduced an epistemological challenge for those who would believe the inductive approach as an acceptable way for reaching knowledge. According to(Chalmer 1999), the “problem of induction introduced a sceptical attack on a large domain of accepted beliefs and opinions that are ordinarily taken to be knowledge”. It is a problem to justify the inductive assumption from the observed to the unobserved.

Karl Popper argued(Popper 2002), the problem of induction can be formulated “as a question of the validity or the truth of universal statements which are based on experience, such as the hypotheses and theoretical systems of the empirical sciences.

The principles of the problem of induction described by Chalmers states that:

“if a large number of A’s have been observed under a wide variety of condi­tions, and if all those observed A’s without exception have possessed the property B, then all M’s possess the property fl” (Chalmer 1999).

Moreover, Popper (Popper 2002) described the principle of the problem of induction as “a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form”.

On the other hand, a classic formulation of the problem was introduced by David Hume. Hume noted that such assumptions usually relied on what happened in the past which could happen again in the future or on the assumption that events of a particular type are automatically connected, through a relation of causation, to events of another type(Loops 2005). For example one could ask why people trust that the sun will rise tomorrow, and people will answer that because in the past the Earth turned up every day and that there is regularity in nature that ensured that such events will always occur in the same way. However how do one identify that nature is unified in this case. One could answer that, in the past, nature has constantly showed this type of uniformity so it will carry on being uniform in the coming future. Furthermore, this assumption is acceptable only if we suppose that the future must resemble the past. But, how does one validate the above assumption? One could say that the future twisted out to be similar to the past and so in the future, the future will again turn out to be similar to the past(Brittanica 2009).

These examples clearly show that induction has its limitations and indeed, as the title of this paper suggests, it is problematic. This essay will focus on investigating Hume’s problem of induction alongside the responses it attracted. Also, it will highlight some of the suggested resolutions to the problem of induction.

Induction and deduction

In order to gain better understanding of Hume’s argument, one needs to first understand the difference between induction and deduction. Deduction is a way to reach the information of exact things from information of general things (University 2000). For example, “if it is known that all of Jupiter’s moons have a smaller radius than Jupiter; one can deduce that Ganymede (Jupiter’s largest moon) has a smaller radius than Jupiter” (Loops 2005). In this situation, the exact case was taken straight from the general thing.

Overall, induction deals with coming to general end derived from information of specific situation. Chalmers explains the inductivist view as “the view that acknowledge that scientific knowledge is derived from the facts by inductive inference”(Chalmer 1999). For example, if someone watches the sun rising and setting all the time during the day and will do that for all his live, and if that person discusses with older people who made similar observations, the inductive way guides that person to the result that the sun will rise tomorrow. “We infer the existence of events which we are not actually observing with the help of general principles. But these principles must be obtained inductively. By mere deduction from what is immediately given we cannot advance a single step beyond”(Ayer 1946).

Hume’s problem

Hume argued that there is no reason to accept general conclusions according to observations of specific case since the general conclusions are based on a number of unobserved situations. His argument was based on the thought that there are only two potential methods to justify induction and that both of them do not provide enough justification. These two methods are experimental reasoning and demonstrative reasoning. Hume states that demonstrative reasoning is only clarified if accepting the premises of an argument and refusing the conclusion causing a disagreement. Nevertheless, there is usually no disagreement linked to accepting premises but refusing their inductive conclusion for instances, it is likely the sun will not rise tomorrow even though the conclusion of induction that it will rise(Howson 2000).

Induction can be justified only by experimental reasoning. As the conclusion itself cannot be observed, since it deals not only with indefinitely many prospect examples and unobserved past cases, but only hypothetical. Induction can be justified by looking at the fact that in the past the conclusions of induction based on correct premises have turned to be true and ending from that the common notion that if inductive premises are correct, their conclusion is also most likely to be correct. There are two issues with this justification for induction(Will 1974).

The first issue is that the observed instances where conclusions of correct premises were observed correctly are not really observations of the conclusion. But one could say that there is still indefinitely many more future, unobserved or merely possible cases where the conclusion could still turn out to be false (Will 1974).

The second issue is that the argument is circular in that it employs the inductive approach to justify the inductive approach. It counts on an inductive jump from past instances of observed correct conclusions taking from correct premises to the conclusion that all the same cases would finish in the same way. Such a jump is not justified since the inductive approach it employs is what is in question in the first place (Anderson 2000). So Hume concludes that: unfortunately one does not have a reason to assume that such inductive inferences are justified.

Possible responses to the problem of induction

Chalmers mentioned that there are great deals of possible responses to Hume’s problem of induction and he mentioned three possible responses to the problem of induction. The first response is that we can believe that science is based on induction and Hume showed that induction can­not be justified by appeal to logic or experience, and conclude that science cannot be reasonably justified. “Hume himself adopted a posi­tion of that kind. He held that beliefs in laws and theories are nothing more than psychological habits that we acquire as a result of repetitions of the relevant observations”(Chalmer 1999)

The second response according to Chalmers is to “weaken the intuitivist demand that all non logical knowledge must be derived from experience and to argue for the reasonableness of the principle of induction on some other grounds”. Nevertheless, to “regard the principle of induction or something like it as obvious is not suitable. What one can see as obvious is much too dependent on and relative to their education, prejudices and culture to be a reliable guide to what is reasonable”(Chalmer 1999).

The third response to the problem of induction involves the denial that science is based on induction. The problem of induction “will be avoided if it can be established that science does not involve induction. The falsificationists, notably Karl Popper, attempt to do this”(Chalmer 1999).

Also, Howson mentioned that there are many attempts, since Hume published his argument, to prove that Hume’s argument is wrong. “These attempts, which fall under the various headings of probabilism, reliabilism, deductivism, the No-Miracles argument, and naturalism, are examined and are all found to be wanting”(Howson 2000).

The first solution according to Popper is deductivism. Popper states that “there is no justification for scientific theories. There is only falsification and deductive logic is good enough for that”(Popper 2002). Deductivism is to try to “develop a position that avoids the complexities that beset inductivism”. It is accepted that theoretical elements enter science at all levels and that inductive generalizations does not have a good justification. The main idea of deductivism is that “theories are not built bottom-up from theory-free data, but that they are deductively tested against data”. Inductivism and deductivism share the thought of scientific clarification and prediction (Chalmer 1999). According to Popper “if the conclusions have been falsified then their falsification also falsifies the theory from which they were logically deduced” (Popper 2002). Logical deduction is vital tool for pragmatic exam of the scientific hypotheses. “For example: Ohm’s Law: R = U/I. For a specific piece of matter, by simple mathematical manipulation, the following equation can be deduced: U1/I1 = U2/I2”. This equation can be compared with the outcomes of measurements. If the measurement varies completely from the deduced values, the hypothesis failed the exam and it is falsified; otherwise it survived the test. Hypotheses can be considered as science only if they have not been falsified(Hoyningen-Huene 2006).

Another, possible solution to solve the problem is irrationalism. Irrationalism can be defined as any movement of idea that emphasizes the not logic or irrational element of truth over and above the logic (Encyclopedia 2008). According to Alan Musgrave (Musgrave 2004) Karl Popper agreed with David Hume views about irrationalism, both of them were reject the irrationalism. However, Popper accepts the inductive, while Hume was rejected. He states that “if one is to avoid Hume’s irrationalism regarding evidence-transcending beliefs, we must reject his inductive scepticism. Popper also rejects the irrationalism, but accepts the inductive scepticism”(Musgrave 2004).

Falsification is one of the methods to solve the problem of induction. It is the logical to make something false ether by observation or by experiment. For instance, the thought that all crows are black would be falsified by observing one white crow. Falsification method was introduced by Karl Popper. Popper proposed that no theory can ever be proved. The observations are still limited but the possibilities are not limited. What people can do with theories is to falsify them and refute them. The strength of a theory found in its constant survival whereas being open to being falsified. In case it is difficult to refute or falsify the theory by sense or test, then it is of little use to the progress of knowledge and science. We can see that, science presented by this vision is one of never ending discovering and exploration (Popper 2002). Finally, all theory is falsified and necessarily replaced by one that is more robust in the face of observations.

In conclusion, Induction is based on looking at observable phenomena and then making conclusions. The problem of induction was introduced by David Hume who tried also to solve the problem of induction. However, Hume could not justify the inductive inferences in a convincing reason. The Problem of induction was showing that there may have some missing objects empire to the singular statement such as one singular statement occurred so the universal statement is wrong. The observation statement is important if it can be use to determined the reality of the theory. Uncertainty of inductive is a problem of empirical scientific method. It may happen when the unknown sample will justify with the similar known sample. There a lot of solutions to the problem of induction, one of the solutions is that we falsify the universal statement as a hypothesis testing then prove it in an empirical statement. Irrationalism is another solution is to the problem.

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