What If the Principle of Induction Is Normative? Formal Learning Theory and Hume’s Problem

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (2):171-185 (2010)
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This article argues that a successful answer to Hume's problem of induction can be developed from a sub-genre of philosophy of science known as formal learning theory. One of the central concepts of formal learning theory is logical reliability: roughly, a method is logically reliable when it is assured of eventually settling on the truth for every sequence of data that is possible given what we know. I show that the principle of induction (PI) is necessary and sufficient for logical reliability in what I call simple enumerative induction. This answer to Hume's problem rests on interpreting PI as a normative claim justified by a non-empirical epistemic means-ends argument. In such an argument, a rule of inference is shown by mathematical or logical proof to promote a specified epistemic end. Since the proof concerning PI and logical reliability is not based on inductive reasoning, this argument avoids the circularity that Hume argued was inherent in any attempt to justify PI



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Citations of this work

The problem of induction.John Vickers - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Formal learning theory.Oliver Schulte - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
No Answer to Hume.Colin Howson - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):279 - 284.
Hume’s theorem.Colin Howson - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):339-346.

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References found in this work

Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1973 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1977 - New York: Dutton. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge & P. H. Nidditch.
Knowledge in a social world.Alvin I. Goldman - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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