How We Came to Think David Hume Wrote about Induction


Authors
John P. McCaskey
Fordham University
Abstract
In the history of ideas, few associations of author and subject are as strong as David Hume’s association with induction. It is he, we say, who discovered or at least formally articulated the great philosophical “problem of induction”—that it is impossible to draw an exceptionless universal claim from particular ones, no matter how many there are. No matter how many white swans we see, we cannot be sure the next swan will be white. But that statement of the problem is itself a universal claim, as are many others we go on making. We seem trapped in what C. D. Broad called “the scandal of philosophy.” But Hume himself would be surprised to find himself associated with this problem. He seldom used the word “induction,” but from those few instances and things he wrote elsewhere we can be sure he considered himself induction’s advocate and not its critic. Others thought of him that way for about a hundred and fifty years. This essay traces how Hume went from being considered a champion of induction to being considered its definitive skeptic.
Keywords Hume  Induction
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