314Lecture3-InductionHumeOnline - Lecture Three The problem...

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Lecture Three: The problem of induction Scientific knowledge is justified knowledge that is generalized from many observations. These observations are measured objectively and recorded. Then a scientific law or principle is extrapolated through induction. Science is therefore objective knowledge that is grounded in empirical evidence. But the process of generalizing from instances is problematic, so philosophers consider in more depth the method of induction. When considering the problem of induction, we need to separate two different distinct questions: (1) Does Inductivism seem to be the method that has actually been followed by particular individuals in the history science? (2) If we use inductive method, does it actually produce knowledge? In order to answer question (1) empirical investigation is required. We can gather the appropriate kind of information, and then we can answer (1). However, (2) is a philosophical question regarding the justification of knowledge. In this section we will consider and examine if and how knowledge is justified using inductive method. The problem of induction is famously discussed in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume (1711-1776), a Scottish philosopher and historian. To appreciate Hume’s influence in the philosophy of science, we need to understand his theory of ideas and the structure of his epistemology (=theory of knowledge). Impressions vs. Ideas According to Hume, if you think about the kinds of impressions and images that we have in our minds, you will find that there are many differences. For instance there is a difference between the actual experience of touching a hot iron (the intense felt pain of a burning sensation) and the memory of burning yourself. The memory or recall of the event is much different since it is a faded or more distant version of the actual experience. Hume explains that these memories or recollections are like copies. They are less intense, more distant, and somewhat faded. The original experience has more force, vivacity, and intensity. In this way the memory or the thought of the experience is unlike the actual experience itself; just as the thought or image in one’s mind of a landscape does not actually recreate the landscape. Hume says: “The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.” Thus, Hume divides all perceptions of the mind into two classes: 1. thoughts or ideas – these are less lively, less vivid, has less force or intensity 2. impressions – these are what we experience when we hear, see, feel, love, hate, desire, will, etc. 1
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Hume offers a couple of arguments for the claim that all our ideas are copies of our impressions. First argument:
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This note was uploaded on 06/05/2011 for the course PHI 314 taught by Professor Creath during the Spring '08 term at ASU.

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314Lecture3-InductionHumeOnline - Lecture Three The problem...

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