David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I develop a critique of Hume’s infamous problem of induction based upon the idea that the principle of induction (PI) is a normative rather than descriptive claim. I argue that Hume’s problem is a false dilemma, since the PI might be neither a “relation of ideas” nor a “matter of fact” but rather what I call a contingent normative statement. In this case, the PI could be justified by a means-ends argument in which the link between means and end is established solely by deductive reasoning. The means-ends argument is an elementary result from formal learning theory that you must be willing to make inductive generalizations if you want to be logically reliable in the types of examples Hume described. This justification of the PI avoids both horns of Hume’s dilemma. Since no contradiction ensues from rejecting logical reliability as an aim, the PI is contingent. Yet since the proof concerning the PI and logical reliability is not based on inductive reasoning, there is no threat of circularity.
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