Induction, focused sampling and the law of small numbers

Synthese 108 (1):89 - 104 (1996)
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Hilary Kornblith (1993) has recently offered a reliabilist defense of the use of the Law of Small Numbers in inductive inference. In this paper I argue that Kornblith's defense of this inferential rule fails for a number of reasons. First, I argue that the sort of inferences that Kornblith seeks to justify are not really inductive inferences based on small samples. Instead, they are knowledge-based deductive inferences. Second, I address Kornblith's attempt to find support in the work of Dorrit Billman and I try to show that close attention to the workings of her computational model reveals that it does not support Kornblith's argument. While the knowledge required to ground the inferences in question is perhaps inductively derived, Billman's work does not support the notion that small samples provide a reliable basis for our generalizing inferences.



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Joel Pust
University of Delaware

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Epistemology and cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Epistemology.Alvin Goldman - 2003 - In John Shand (ed.), Fundamentals of Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 11-35.
Variability and confirmation.Paul R. Thagard & Richard E. Nisbett - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 42 (3):379-394.

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