Interpreters of Hume on causation consider that an advantage of the ‘quasi-realist’ reading is that it does not commit him to scepticism or to an error theory about causal reasoning. It is unique to quasi-realism that it maintains this positive epistemic result together with a rejection of metaphysical realism about causation: the quasi-realist supplies an appropriate semantic theory in order to justify the practice of talking ‘as if’ there were causal powers in the world. In this paper, I problematise (...) the quasi-realist reading of Hume on causation by showing how quasi-realism does not speak to inductivescepticism. I also offer evidence that Hume takes inductivescepticism to result from his theory of causation, and that his scepticism is tied to his rejection of metaphysical causal realism. (shrink)
Many theorists have proposed that we can use the principle of indifference to defeat the inductive sceptic. But any such theorist must confront the objection that different ways of applying the principle of indifference lead to incompatible probability assignments. Huemer offers the explanatory priority proviso as a strategy for overcoming this objection. With this proposal, Huemer claims that we can defend induction in a way that is not question-begging against the sceptic. But in this article, I argue that the (...) opposite is true: if anything, Huemer’s use of the principle of indifference supports the rationality of inductivescepticism. (shrink)
Many theorists have proposed that we can use the principle of indifference to defeat the inductive sceptic. But any such theorist must confront the objection that different ways of applying the principle of indifference lead to incompatible probability assignments. Huemer () offers the explanatory priority proviso as a strategy for overcoming this objection. With this proposal, Huemer claims that we can defend induction in a way that is not question-begging against the sceptic. But in this article, I argue that (...) the opposite is true: if anything, Huemer’s use of the principle of indifference supports the rationality of inductivescepticism. (shrink)
This book aims to discuss probability and David Hume's inductivescepticism. For the sceptical view which he took of inductive inference, Hume only ever gave one argument. That argument is the sole subject-matter of this book. The book is divided into three parts. Part one presents some remarks on probability. Part two identifies Hume's argument for inductivescepticism. Finally, the third part evaluates Hume's argument for inductivescepticism.
In a recent paper replying to the inductive sceptic, Samir Okasha says that the Humean argument for inductivescepticism depends on mistakenly construing inductive reasoning as based on a principle of the uniformity of nature. I dispute Okasha's argument that we are entitled to the background beliefs on which (he says) inductive reasoning depends. Furthermore, I argue that the sorts of theoretically impoverished contexts to which a uniformity-of-nature principle has traditionally been restricted are exactly the (...) contexts relevant to the inductive sceptic's argument, and (pace Okasha) are not at all remote from actual scientific practice. I discuss several scientific examples involving such contexts. (shrink)
Viewing moral scepticism as the rejection of objective desirabilities, inductivescepticism may be seen as the rejection of objective believabilities. Moral scepticism leads naturally to amoralism rather than subjectivism, and inductivescepticism undermines not our practices of induction but only a view about justification. The two scepticisms together amount to the adoption of a defensibly narrow, formal view of reason.
A survey of arguments and positions concerning the possibility of inductive knowledge, this piece covers: Hume's problem of induction; the underdetermination of theories by evidence; the method of hypothesis; the relationship between underdetermination and evidential holism; attempts to specify how some statements can be said to be evidentially (or justificatorily) relevant to other claims.
The Socratic Paradox (that only Socrates is wise, and only because only he recognizes our lack of wisdom) is explained, elaborated and defended. His philosophical scepticism is distinguished from others (Pyrrhonian, Cartesian, Humean, Kripkean Wittgenstein, etc.): the doubt concerns our understanding of our beliefs, not our justification for them; the doubt is a posteriori and inductive, not a priori. Post-Socratic philosophy confirms this scepticism: contra-Descartes, our ideas are not transparent to us; contra-Verificationism, no criterion distinguishes sense from (...) nonsense. The import of this scepticism for professional ethicists is examined. (shrink)
The main problem of this study is David Hume’s (1711-76) view on Metaphysical Realism (there are mind-independent, external, and continuous entities). This specific problem is part of two more general questions in Hume scholarship: his attitude to scepticism and the relation between naturalism and skepticism in his thinking. A novel interpretation of these problems is defended in this work. The chief thesis is that Hume is both a sceptic and a Metaphysical Realist. His philosophical attitude is to suspend his (...) judgment on Metaphysical Realism, whereas as a common man he firmly believes in the existence of mind-independent, external, and continuous entities. Therefore Hume does not have any one position; accordingly, a form of “no one Hume” interpretation (Richard Popkin, Robert J. Fogelin, Donald L.M. Baxter) is argued for in the book. The key point in this distinction is the temporal difference between Hume’s philosophical and everyday views. It is introduced in order to avoid attributing a conscious contradiction to him (a problem which has not attracted enough attention in the literature). The method of the work is modelled on Peter Millican’s work on Hume and induction. The approach to the main problem is to study the two “profound” arguments against the senses that Hume presents in the Section 12 of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748). These arguments are first reconstructed in detail resulting in Millican-type diagrams of them and then Hume’s endorsement of them is established on the basis of the diagrams. The first profound argument concludes that Metaphysical Realism and thus any Realistic theory of perception is unjustified as well as the existence of God and the soul. The second argument goes further having first conceptual conclusion: the very notions of Real entitity, material substance, and bodies are completely out of the reach of the faculty of understanding. Therefore they ought to be rejected according to Hume. This is a consequence of the consistent use of the Humean faculty of reason: idea-analysis and inductive inference. The second profound argument thus concludes that believing in Metaphysical Realism is inconsistent with the rational attitude that is to refrain from this belief. Hence, if we attributed both of them to Hume, we would end up with a great philosopher who embraces a manifest contradiction. The study is finished by arguing that this sceptical and Metaphysically Realistic interpretation concurs well with (1) Hume’s professed Academical philosophy and (2) project of the science of human nature. (1) According to Hume, Academical philosophy is in the first place diffidence, modesty, and uncertainty including suspension on certain issues. Secondly, it is restriction of the range of topics for which experience can provide a standard of truth. This kind of empiricist epistemological realism is coherent with the sceptical attitude on Metaphysical Realism because the latter does not rule out inter-subjective consensus on what we experience. (2) Suspension of judgment on Metaphysical Realism coheres with the mind-dependency of the objects of Hume’s science of human nature: the understanding, passions, morals, aesthetics, politics, and the human culture in all of its manifestations. Although the study takes the first Enquiry to be Hume’s authorised word on the understanding, his juvenile work A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) is argued to support this “no one Hume” interpretation. Hume’s other works are also discussed when needed. (shrink)
The hard problem of induction is to argue without begging the question that inductive inference, applied properly in the proper circumstances, is conducive to truth. A recent theorem seems to show that the hard problem has a deductive solution. The theorem, provable in zfc, states that a predictive function M exists with the following property: whatever world we live in, M correctly predicts the world’s present state given its previous states at all times apart from a well-ordered subset. On (...) the usual model of time a well-ordered subset is small relative to the set of all times. M’s existence therefore seems to provide a solution to the hard problem. My paper argues for two conclusions. First, the theorem does not solve the hard problem of induction. More positively though, it solves a version of the problem in which the structure of time is given modulo our choice of set theory. (shrink)
This paper is about three of the most prominent debates in modern epistemology. The conclusion is that three prima facie appealing positions in these debates cannot be held simultaneously. The first debate is scepticism vs anti-scepticism. My conclusions apply to most kinds of debates between sceptics and their opponents, but I will focus on the inductive sceptic, who claims we cannot come to know what will happen in the future by induction. This is a fairly weak kind (...) of scepticism, and I suspect many philosophers who are generally anti-sceptical are attracted by this kind of scepticism. Still, even this kind of scepticism is quite unintuitive. I’m pretty sure I know (1) on the basis of induction. (1) It will snow in Ithaca next winter. Although I am taking a very strong version of anti-scepticism to be intuitively true here, the points I make will generalise to most other versions of scepticism. (Focussing on the inductive sceptic avoids some potential complications that I will note as they arise.) The second debate is a version of rationalism vs empiricism. The kind of rationalist I have in mind accepts that some deeply contingent propositions can be known a priori, and the empiricist I have in mind denies this. Kripke showed that there are contingent propositions that can be known a priori. One example is Water is the watery stuff of our acquaintance. (‘Watery’ is David Chalmers’s nice term for the properties of water by which folk identify it.) All the examples Kripke gave are of propositions that are, to use Gareth Evans’s term, deeply necessary (Evans, 1979). It is a matter of controversy presently just how to analyse Evans’s concepts of deep necessity and contingency, but most of the controversies are over details that are not important right here. I’ll simply adopt Stephen Yablo’s recent suggestion: a proposition is deeply contingent if it could have turned out to be true, and could have turned out to be false (Yablo, 2002)1. Kripke did not provide examples of any deeply contingent propositions knowable a priori, though nothing he showed rules out their existence.. (shrink)
Inductive logic admits a variety of semantics (Haenni et al., 2011, Part 1). This paper develops semantics based on the norms of Bayesian epistemology (Williamson, 2010, Chapter 7). §1 introduces the semantics and then, in §2, the paper explores methods for drawing inferences in the resulting logic and compares the methods of this paper with the methods of Barnett and Paris (2008). §3 then evaluates this Bayesian inductive logic in the light of four traditional critiques of inductive (...) logic, arguing (i) that it is language independent in a key sense, (ii) that it admits connections with the Principle of Indiﬀerence but these connections do not lead to paradox, (iii) that it can capture the phenomenon of learning from experience, and (iv) that while the logic advocates scepticism with regard to some universal hypotheses, such scepticism is not problematic from the point of view of scientiﬁc theorising. (shrink)
The argument of this article is that the use of general terms, And in particular the general term 'generalizations established inductively', Is possible only on the basis of at least weak inductive reasoning. In consequence, Total scepticism concerning induction, The proposition that "no inductive generalization, Of any kind, Is justifiable", Is one of those propositions which are incoherent because their assertion is possible only on the basis of their own falsehood.
I focus on a family of inferences that are intuitively incapable of producing knowledge of their conclusions, although they appear to satisfy sufficient conditions for inferential knowledge postulated by plausible epistemological theories. They include Moorean inferences and inductive-bootstrapping inferences. I provide an account of why these inferences are not capable of producing knowledge. I argue that the reason why these inferences fail to produce knowledge of their conclusions is that inferential knowledge requires that the subject is more likely to (...) believe the premises of the inference if the conclusion is true than if it is false. I end by comparing the treatment of these cases that emerges from the approach that I recommend with the position advocated by Sherrilyn Roush in her recent book, Tracking Truth (2005). (shrink)
In Conspiracies and Lyes I aim to provide an epistemological account of testimony as one of our faculties of knowledge. I compare testimony to perception and memory. Its similarity to both these faculties is recognised. A fundamental difference is stressed: it can be rational to not accept testimony even if testimony is fulfilling its proper epistemic function because it can be rational for a speaker to not express a belief; or, as I say, it can be rational for a speaker (...) to lye. This difference in epistemic function provides the basis for a sceptical argument against testimony. Scepticism is presented as a method rather than a problem: considering how to refute the sceptical argument is taken to be a means of evaluating theories as to how testimonial beliefs are warranted. I consider two strategies for refuting scepticism and, correlatively, two accounts of how testimonial beliefs are warranted. I show these accounts to be neutral across all theories of justification that entertain the project of investigating our faculties of knowledge. A reductionist account explains the warrant supporting our testimonial beliefs in terms of our inductive ground for accepting testimony. An anti-reductionist account explains the warrant supporting our testimonial beliefs in terms of our possessing an entitlement to accept testimony. I show how both positions can be intuitively motivated. In presenting reductionism I appeal to probability theory, empirical psychology and invoke David Hume. In presenting anti-reductionism I invoke John McDowell and Tyler Burge. A refutation of scepticism is provided by a hybrid of reductionism and anti-reductionism. The hybrid is conceived as part social externalism and part individual internalism. In developing this account I provide a means of conceptualising the dynamic that exists between individual knowers and communities of knowledge. (shrink)
Much has been written about Kemp Smith's famous problem regarding the tension between Hume's naturalism and his scepticism. However, most commentators have focused their attention on the Treatise; those who address the Enquiry often take it to express essentially the same message as the Treatise. When Hume's scepticism in the Enquiry has been investigated in its own right, commentators have tended to focus on Hume's inductivescepticism in Sections 4 and 5. All in all, it seems (...) that Section 12 has been unduly neglected. This paper seeks to address Kemp Smith's problem from the standpoint of Hume's treatment of scepticism in EHU 12, and finds an interesting internalist account that makes sense both of Hume's discussion in EHU 12, and his aims in the Enquiry as a whole. Moreover, it is one that is of substantive philosophical interest, having intriguing parallels to contemporary epistemological accounts. (shrink)