Handout Induction

Handout Induction - Handout Induction A central concern of...

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A central concern of scientists [some would say the central concern] is to formulate generalizations. An example of such a generalization is: (1) If you heat water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it will boil. (1) concerns the past and present. If (1) is true, water heated to 212 in the past has always boiled, and water heated to that temperature now is boiling. But (1) also concerns the future. Water heated to 212 in the future will boil. So, if we know that (1) is true, we know something about the future. Quite apart from science we have a great interest in acquiring knowledge of the future. If we could acquire no knowledge, or, at least, justified belief, in the future, our lives, it seems, would come to a speedy end. So, how can we know about the future? David Hume’s answer to this last question is that we can know about the future only if we can know generalizations like (1) to be true. For example, I am planning, let us say, to meet my friend at the airport. I call the airline, and hear that the flight has been delayed two hours. I travel to the airport two hours later than I intended to. Why do I do that? Hume would answer, because I rely on the generalization: if the airline is announces a flight is delayed then that flight is delayed. If Hume is right, our knowledge of the future depends upon our knowledge of generalizations like (1). So, how can we have knowledge of such generalizations? An obvious answer goes like this. Suppose, we had only once ever observed water to be heated to 212, and subsequently boiling. On the basis of a single such observation could we know that (1) is true? Surely not. We need to observe water being heated to 212, and then boiling, a great many times to know it will boil in the future when heated to 212. Suppose, we have observed on a large number of occasions
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2012 for the course PHI 107 taught by Professor Mattskene during the Spring '08 term at Syracuse.

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Handout Induction - Handout Induction A central concern of...

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