Induction and Probability

Arguably, Hume's greatest single contribution to contemporary philosophy of science has been the problem of induction (1739). Before attempting its statement, we need to spend a few words identifying the subject matter of this corner of epistemology. At a first pass, induction concerns ampliative inferences drawn on the basis of evidence (presumably, evidence acquired more or less directly from experience)—that is, inferences whose conclusions are not (validly) entailed by the premises. Philosophers have historically drawn further distinctions, often appropriating the term “induction” to mark them; since we will not be concerned with the philosophical issues for which these distinctions are relevant, we will use the word “inductive” in a catch-all sense synonymous with “ampliative”. But we will follow the usual practice of choosing, as our paradigm example of inductive inferences, inferences about the future based on evidence drawn from the past and present. A further refinement is more important. Opinion typically comes in degrees, and this fact makes a great deal of difference to how we understand inductive inferences. For while it is often harmless to talk about the conclusions that can be rationally believed on the basis of some..
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