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philosophy paper - Joe Mitchell-Nelson PHI 101 Pinillos 28...

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Joe Mitchell-Nelson PHI 101 Pinillos 28 November 2007 The Problem of Induction You work in the quality control department of an iPod factory. Your duty is to watch iPods roll by on a conveyor belt, and remove every mp3 player that has a visible defect--a scratch, a dent, a missing part, etc. However, in your entire 20-year stint with the Macintosh corporation, you have never seen a single damaged iPod, nor have any of your coworkers. One day you assume it's safe to desert your post and take a 15- minute smoke-break. Your boss catches you returning from your unauthorized absence, and has your pink slip ready in his hand. When you try to explain your reasoning to your boss--there have never been any defective iPods in the past, so you don't expect any in the future--he explains to you the fallacy of inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is, taken at its simplest, the inference that the unobserved will be similar to the observed--that the future will resemble the past, for example. To use David Hume's more rigorous definition: if experience has shown that an object has always been connected with such an effect, then one may infer that such an object will continue to be connected with such an effect, but there is no chain of reasoning to prove or even suggest this. Hume goes on to assert that inductive reasoning can never be justified because any attempt to do so invokes an inductive argument, and is by definition circular. For example, one may argue that the statistical principal known as the "law of
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large numbers" states that if a coin is flipped, then the proportion of "heads," or of "tails" will be very close 50% after many, many flips. To use Hume's terminology, the object, in
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course PHI 101 taught by Professor Pinillos during the Fall '08 term at ASU.

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philosophy paper - Joe Mitchell-Nelson PHI 101 Pinillos 28...

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