Sunday, May 10, 2009

39c David Hume on Induction

When I say "All sheep are white ? This animal is a sheep ? thence this animal is white" I don't say much more than I already knew. I didn't established new knowledge. I only know that if my premises are true, my conclusion is absolutely true as well.

Does this make sense. What is it worth, for it doesn't seem to make me wiser. Not really true.This method of reasoning has a scientific function.

Suppose here I have an animal and I can say "hmmmm...this animal is white. Well, I have seen such before!..damn..I could have guessed it: again it is a sheep !!".. Now I can formulate the theory, that all sheep are white!!

So when my friend calls on the phone and says: "Herman, I got a sheep here!" I immediately can say "Don't tell me! I am absolutely certain that it is white!" He will be amazed. How could I know that, but I know it by logical necessity.

That is to say, if and only if all my premises are true and there is the catch , for I moved from deductive reasoning to inductive reasoning. I have seen only a limited number of sheep and yet I say that the proposition "All sheep are white" is true.

But there is a flaw in my logic, when I say "This is a sheep and it is white; that is a sheep and it is white, so All sheep are white".

The concept of All encloses this and that, but a this and that don't contain the concept of All. It could contain the suggestion of "probably all" at the most. So how can I claim that All sheep are white is true, when there is no logical necessity?

How do I establish the truth of that statement? That is the problem of induction Hume had to run into due to his empiricist epistemology.

We are in serious trouble here, for this is the standard method of science: you collect tons of observations and then formulate a theory, which can predict that we will have the same observations in the future too.

We have two ways of reasoning: 1) Demonstrative reasoning (effectively, deductive reasoning) 2) Probable reasoning (effectively, inductive reasoning) With regards to 1), Hume argues that we cannot prove a priori that regularities will continue, as it is "consistent and conceivable" that the course of nature might change

Coming to 2), Hume argues that founding a regularity on the fact that that regularity has always operated in the past (inductive reasoning) is arguing in a circle, because induction was the very process we were trying to explain in the first place. Hence no form of reason will sponsor inductive inference.

This could leads to the conclusion that all scientific knowledge isnt 100% true at all, at least not proven to be so. All empirical knowledge is in fact PROBABLY true.

We are forced to conclude that every claim of absolute truth is void of meaning. In utter despair we could cry out: OMG!..there is no truth at all!!!! No truth? what the heck:induction is not a rational procedure, but just a twist of our mind. So, let's party!

We MUST find a solution to justify inductive reasoning. Is induction a rational procedure, or said in another way, are we acting rational to rely on induction? But then again, why should we prefer rationality as the basis of our epistemology, our certainty of knowledge?

Hume comes up with a simple answer. He says that "Nature, by an absolute and uncontrolable necessity has determined us to judge as well as to breath and feel". In other is just as it is. This scepticism about inductively established truth is just artificial.

Now we can conclude that just this impossibility to justify induction rationally is what makes science tick and that we apparently yet have discovered a scientific method, which makes the establishing of new certain knowledge possible.

The first who pointed the way was Francis Bacon, who died in 1626 and in recent past the approach of Karl Popper had a huge impact. Don't look for (further) verification of your hypothesis, try to falsify it.

The Discussion

[13:42] Herman Bergson: So far on induction
[13:42] Herman Bergson: While writing my lecture I all of a sudden understood Kuhn and Feyerabend...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: but that is a personal thing..:-)
[13:43] Herman Bergson: main conclusion least to me ..that science is just probable knowledge....
[13:44] Ze Novikov: hmm
[13:44] Osrum Sands: it appears to rely on the future resembling the past
[13:44] Herman Bergson: that is a thing I thought about Osrum..
[13:45] Herman Bergson: It is something to suppose that what my theory predicts also was the same in the past..
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Appears to me that induction is based on indivual experience and once another's experience of a black sheep then adustment is made to the genreral truth that can still be adjustted
[13:46] Herman Bergson: but we use that idea indeed...otherwise we wouldnt have an evolution theory for instance
[13:46] Osrum Sands: it returns then to a matter of faith / trust etc
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Yes Osrum..quite close to that..
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: you have probability vs possibility
[13:47] Herman Bergson: I dont think so Aristotle...
[13:47] Herman Bergson: only probable vs improbable
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: how many different colors of sheep are there?
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: didn't Popper concider the idea of induction as not necessary?
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: we cant really know
[13:49] Herman Bergson: yes hope...Popper opposed to the empirical inductive approach...
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: unless you have seen all the sheep that exist
[13:49] Osrum Sands: and you dont know that you have seen all the sheep
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle..and THAT os the big problem of induction..
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: so knowledge can never be definitive
[13:50] Herman Bergson: for at a given moment you never can see all sheep that will be born the next 100 years for instance
[13:50] Osrum Sands: bingo
[13:50] Herman Bergson: that might be the conclusion indeed Aristotle...
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: not to mention flux
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: there is a time element..
[13:50] Herman Bergson: we have no definite knowledge
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: apart from the observation element..
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: which are related..
[13:51] Osrum Sands: so we loose certiainty, vanishes along with God
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: os.. we put them aside.. not loose them..
[13:51] Osrum Sands: ok
[13:51] Herman Bergson: Well Osrum...this is indeed a very important moment in the history of mind..
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: I think Hume is the pivot man
[13:52] Herman Bergson: With Hume we have lost an allmighty all problems solving God
[13:52] Herman Bergson: yes he is Aristotle..he is
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: without answering the question about infinite,.
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: I know that I generate more quesions in my quest to answer one question so I can never find out everthing
[13:54] Herman Bergson: What fascinates me so intense is why the human mind took these turns..from the Greek to Hume...why did natural science emerge...experiment...laws of nature..
[13:54] Herman Bergson: We deal with all philosophers one by one as if it is some logical and natural development....
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: evolution of the mind?
[13:55] Herman Bergson: but that is what we made of it retrospectively
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: I believe it the finding of the individual, natural law and building of self esteem
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: that alowed it
[13:56] Herman Bergson: You are right if you see a development towards individualism, Aristotle
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: I see it working in unison with the separation of theology and philosophy
13:57] Ze Novikov: is the development of individualism that allows no choice but for philosopy and science to develop this way?
[13:57] Osrum Sands: interesting thought Ze
[13:58] Herman Bergson: I am thinking of that indeed Ze..
[13:58] Osrum Sands: individualism is a western thing - not so much in the east I think
[13:58] Herman Bergson: I try to imagine the social and economical development through the ages..
[13:58] Osrum Sands: consider the human rigths issue
[13:58] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:58] Herman Bergson: there must be a relation
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: I think each philospher in this period lessens the fear of retribution form the church and the mind became unchained to think more clearly
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: SCIENCE.. in a historical approach .. was individualism in the context of the society.. which was the all
[13:59] Ze Novikov: hence falling back on his individual thoughts
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Good point Aristotle...the lessening of the power of the church
[13:59] Ze Novikov: without church support
[14:00] Herman Bergson: Keep in mind that England wasnt subject to the Pope had its own church
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: this was the beginning of a brave new world
[14:00] Osrum Sands: the start of Modernity
[14:00] Ze Novikov: yes
[14:01] Herman Bergson: well Orwell had to be born still Aristotle..:-)
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. you know what you are saying ther ari?
[14:01] Herman Bergson: or Huxley
[14:01] Osrum Sands: haha
[14:01] Osrum Sands: but it was an entirly new world
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, and he need the drugs to cope
[14:01] Osrum Sands: a world where freedom of thought came to rule
[14:01] Herman Bergson: that is WAS a new world
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: yes OS freedom of thought
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: and then speech
[14:02] Herman Bergson: we are witnessing an amazing moment in history here
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: the rights of man
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: well. ari,, aren't there "drugs" today already used? in the medias?
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: yes they are hope, sadly
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: hitler was using " brave new world " concepts.. with qwords instead of drugs.. and that hasn't changed that m,uch..
[14:03] Osrum Sands: thinking historically I wonder if the new age would have been so powerfull if the structurers of Rome had not been so strong for so long
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: certainly the ideals of republicanism was panted then Os
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: os.. the structures of Rome you find today in the bush politics..
[14:04] Osrum Sands: ?
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: hope you know that power corrupts
[14:04] Herman Bergson: well..I guess we are drifting formthe subject..:-)
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[14:05] Ze Novikov: Osrum are you talking about one causing the other?
[14:05] Osrum Sands: not necessarily
[14:05] Osrum Sands: just influencing
[14:05] Ze Novikov: ahh
[14:05] Ze Novikov: ty
[14:05] hope63 Shepherd: not necessarily. read platon or phytagoras.. it does corrupt in the history.. burt i mentioned solon many times before.. and he is an example of the contrary.. just like ghandi
[14:05] AristotleVon Doobie: Let me ask Herman if the trend for less prosecution of philosophical thought will continue from Hume
[14:06] AristotleVon Doobie: or does it slide back
[14:06] Herman Bergson: The days that the clergy could prosecute free thought are over
[14:07] Herman Bergson: it is this moment in history that this becomes reality
[14:07] Osrum Sands: but the horrors of the French revolution showed that freedom of thought needed to be tempered with dicipline
[14:07] hope63 Shepherd: ari.. i read that at the time of Leibniz there were about 200 papers that were concerended about philosophy in germany alone..
[14:08] AristotleVon Doobie: as an example here in the US those in charge attempt to create an atmosphere of fear for any that speak out against their policies
[14:08] Osrum Sands: and in Australia it was the same Ari
[14:08] AristotleVon Doobie: this is the same technigue used for centuries in the philosophocl arena
[14:09] Osrum Sands: ideological hit men dressed up as journalist shooting down any who attempt to think differently
[14:09] AristotleVon Doobie: yes Os
[14:09] Osrum Sands: but that falsness does not laast
[14:09] Ze Novikov: it would be interesting to see what science and scientific inquiry did with Hume ideas...
[14:09] AristotleVon Doobie: I mention it only to point out that the threat remains to free thught
[14:10] Ze Novikov: that is did methodology change?
[14:10] Osrum Sands: are we inducing something about the future from the past here
[14:10] hope63 Shepherd: but philosphy is getting more and more complicared.. and not available for understanding in our times.. there is no way a socrates could influence opinion on the market place.. you have to be a preacher in the networrk like graham to get there..
[14:10] Osrum Sands: re free thinking
[14:10] Herman Bergson: Well Ze...indeed it evoked a methotodological change...
[14:10] Ze Novikov: yes
[14:11] Osrum Sands: or a comic
[14:11] Herman Bergson: or in fact..Hume produced the epistemological basis for what men like Newton were doing
[14:11] AristotleVon Doobie: certainly Hume removed the shackles but they lay dormant in the corner for a despot to use again
[14:12] Herman Bergson: You must see all these developments together as one big process
[14:12] Ze Novikov: the implications here were vast
[14:12] Ze Novikov: wow
[14:12] Herman Bergson: shaped the world of science
[14:13] hope63 Shepherd: one quest/ remark on Hume herman: his basis was the information we get through our senses?
[14:13] Herman Bergson: when you think of it...the impact has been amazing...
[14:13] Herman Bergson: yes, Hope
[14:14] AristotleVon Doobie: herman would you say that Hume was an Objectivist?
[14:14] Herman Bergson: what is an objectivist Aristotle?
[14:14] hope63 Shepherd: and then the information gathered through the senses was stored in the mind?
[14:14] AristotleVon Doobie: The Ayn Rand theory..are you familiar with her?
[14:15] Herman Bergson: I am sorry, no..
[14:15] AristotleVon Doobie: She postulated that existence trumps conscienceness
[14:16] AristotleVon Doobie: without existence there is no concienceness
[14:16] hope63 Shepherd: je pense donc je suis?
[14:16] Herman Bergson: no..then we are dead
[14:16] AristotleVon Doobie: with Hume as far as sense ruling?
[14:17] AristotleVon Doobie: all things exist to Hume?
[14:17] Herman Bergson: I am not sure what you mean Aristotle..but without man on earth there is no consciousness
[14:17] AristotleVon Doobie: yes but is there earth?
[14:17] Osrum Sands: AristotleVon Doobie: without existence there is no conscienceness - that is Marx
[14:17] Herman Bergson: kind of silly statement
[14:17] AristotleVon Doobie: without man?
[14:18] Herman Bergson: yes..when mankind is wiped out
[14:18] Osrum Sands: or will it live on in some other and unknown form ??
[14:19] AristotleVon Doobie: well we will not be able to sense it the tree in the forest when no one is around
[14:19] Osrum Sands: love the 'Tree' game
[14:20] AristotleVon Doobie: if I am the center of the Universe then existence must cease
[14:20] hope63 Shepherd: you are your own universe ari..
[14:20] AristotleVon Doobie: yes lol
[14:20] Herman Bergson: you mean I have to leave SL Aristotle, because you are here? :-)
[14:20] AristotleVon Doobie: and some others too Hope
[14:21] AristotleVon Doobie: no no Hemrman you may stay
[14:21] Herman Bergson: thnx...
[14:21] AristotleVon Doobie: you are benefical to my existence
[14:21] Herman Bergson: then let me get to a conclusion
[14:21] hope63 Shepherd: no.. the others may be part of your universe .. as long as you can recognize them
[14:21] Ze Novikov giggles
[14:21] AristotleVon Doobie: yes Hope
[14:21] hope63 Shepherd: but can you?
[14:21] Osrum Sands: please Herman do finish
[14:22] Herman Bergson: We have concluded that all empirical knowledge is only probably true
[14:22] hope63 Shepherd: that is more than logical.. it is evident..
[14:22] Herman Bergson: and it was Hume who pointed at this feature..
[14:23] Herman Bergson: so the idea of some absolute truth is directed to the garbagecan..
[14:24] Herman Bergson: and I think that this is our position in the universe....
[14:24] Herman Bergson: conscious minds..looking around...only equipped with probably certian knowledge
[14:25] hope63 Shepherd: but this doesn't stop us for looking for truth..
[14:25] AristotleVon Doobie: we are like the vogages of Star Trek
[14:25] Ze Novikov: may actually increase the effort
[14:25] Herman Bergson: of course not
[14:26] Herman Bergson: it has increased the effort Ze...look at the tremendous development of science since 1680
[14:26] Osrum Sands: yes Ze and leave me with many many more Questions
[14:26] Ze Novikov: yes
[14:26] AristotleVon Doobie: to seek out the new and unknown
[14:27] hope63 Shepherd: and as i said before.. the problem is mathematics.the more they try to find different approaches to understand reality.. the more they will be forced to follow mathematics and physic.. which is based on math too..
[14:27] AristotleVon Doobie: certainly they are tools Hope
[14:27] Herman Bergson: practicle advise...
[14:27] Herman Bergson: make shorter sentences...
[14:27] Osrum Sands: you mean this created reality Hope
[14:28] hope63 Shepherd: no..( herman says i should be short):)
[14:28] Herman Bergson: if your words are more than two lines in my window I dont read them..:-)
[14:29] hope63 Shepherd:¨
[14:29] AristotleVon Doobie: it is hard to keep up with long sentences
[14:29] Herman Bergson: yes..we should refrain from that..
[14:29] Osrum Sands: like all of human history
[14:29] hope63 Shepherd: because you have to think more'
[14:29] Osrum Sands: negotiating this new world takes time
[14:30] AristotleVon Doobie: it is just everybody else thinks faster
[14:30] AristotleVon Doobie: or types faster
[14:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I am handicapped in bothe areas
[14:30] hope63 Shepherd: OK. i'm against the induction theory..
[14:30] Ze Novikov: Gentlemen I must go to RL, it has been fun to be in your august company today
[14:30] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Ze, take care
[14:30] Osrum Sands: thank you dear lady
[14:30] Herman Bergson: Nice you were here least one lady..:-)
[14:30] hope63 Shepherd: bye Ze..
[14:30] Ze Novikov: bb
[14:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[14:31] Herman Bergson: Class dismissed..:-)
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-02-09 17:02:10

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