Discussion. What to believe and what to take seriously: A reply to David chart concerning the Riddle of induction
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (1):151-153 (2000)
|Abstract||In his commentary on my paper, “Means-Ends Epistemology”, David Chart constructs a Riddle of Induction with the following feature: Means-ends analysis, as I formulated it in the paper, selects “all emeralds are grue” as the optimal conjecture after observing a sample of all green emeralds. Chart’s construction is rigorous and correct. If we disagree, it is in the philosophical morals to be drawn from his example. Such morals are best discussed by elucidating some of the larger epistemological issues involved. “Means-ends Epistemology” sought a normative theory of hypothesis selection. I defined what it means for an inductive method to reliably and efficiently find a correct hypothesis from a set of alternative hypotheses. (In fact, I investigated a number of standards of empirical success for inductive methods.) Call such methods optimal. We may take optimal inferences to be those made by optimal methods. This defines a relation Optimal-Inference(h,e,H): “given the set of alternative hypotheses H, and evidence e, hypothesis h is an optimal inference”. One fundamental difference between the means-ends approach and traditional confirmation theory is that the latter has sought a two-place relation between theory and evidence alone, something like “hypothesis h is highly confirmed given evidence e”. From my point of view, posing the problem of induction as discerning the right relation between theory and evidence is elliptical because it leaves unspecified the set of alternative hypotheses under investigation (as well as other relevant factors, such as the scientist’s background knowledge, observational means, cognitive capacities and epistemic values). Chart’s Riddle highlights the fact that depending on the space of alternative hypotheses, means-ends analysis may select a different hypothesis on the same evidence: “all emeralds are green” in my Goodmanian Riddle, and “all emeralds are grue” in his. To my mind, his example..|
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