Archives For Hume

Teleology:

Any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in nature. Broadly the term is used elsewhere to mean an action involved at aiming at goals.

A thing, process or action is teleological when it is for the sake of an end.

Deductive:

Deductive reasoning says essentially that the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. This is different to inference and induction in which a conclusion is arrived at based on a set of patterns/occurrences/events.

Inductive:

Inductive reasoning evaluates propositions, arriving at the most probable conclusion. The conclusion is justified by examples.

Logical Positivism:

This is empiricism combined with rationalism, incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs. It is a type of analytic philosophy. It began with a group known as the Vienna circle of who Karl popper was a contemporary but not a part. They opposed all metaphysics on the basis that all knowledge should be codifiable by a single common language of science (Wittgenstein).

Humean Critique of Induction

The driving question is: “Does Induction lead to knowledge?”.

In Hume’s work, the terminology is slightly different from that of today. Primarily: reason refers to deductive reasoning, and induction refers to inductive reasoning. Demonstrative refers to deductive and probabilistic refers to the generalisation of causal reasoning.

Hume saw that causation was the most important associative relation, since: “by means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses.” Therefore causation is the basis of all our reasoning concerning matters-of-fact. To add to this, it follows that we therefore infer propositions about the world onto or from these causation’s. These inferences are not due to reason (deductive). At the root of this is the idea that effects are distinct events from their causes.

The arguments conclusion states that in induction (causal inference) experience does not produce the idea of an effect from an impression of its cause by means of an understanding or reason, but by the imagination. The problem with inductive reasoning is what it implies about nature:

“that instances of which we have had no experience, must resemble those of which we have had experience, and that the course of nature continues always uniformly the same.” (Hume THN, 89)

This principle can’t be proved deductively, as deductive proof would make it a necessary truth, and the principle here is not necessary. It’s antecedent is consistent with the denial of its consequent. Hume sees inference as a habit of the mind that drives inductive reasoning. The force of induction that drives this inference is a subjective power, not an objective feature of the world. Inductive inference is not and could not be reasoning; either probabilistic or deductive, from premise to conclusion.

Karl Popper

A self-professed ‘critical rationalist’; a dedicated opponent of all forms of skepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally, a committed advocate and staunch defender of the “Open Society”, and an implacable critic of totalitarianism in all its forms. He was a critic of logical positivism, especially of what he considered to be its misplaced focus on the theory of meaning in philosophy and upon verification in scientific methodology. Popper argued that psychoanalysis had more in common with primitive myth than with science and science was a superior form of knowledge building as it was accountable and had negative implications (it could be disproved). For Popper Marxism had started out scientific, but degenerated with additions of ad hoc hypotheses as the predicted reality didn’t pan out. This made it pseudo-scientific.

The central problem in science is demarcation: distinguishing between science and ‘non-science’. Popper also holds that there is no unique methodology specific to science. Science consists largely of problem-solving. Falsifiability is the key concern of scientific investigation. It is easy to obtain evidence in favor of virtually any theory, and such ‘corroboration’, as he terms it, should count scientifically only if it is the positive result of a genuinely risky prediction, which might conceivably have been false. Therefore a genuine test of a scientific theory is logically an attempt to refute or falsify it, and one counter insistence falsifies the whole theory.

As a result a scientific theory can never be genuinely or logically verified. Hence we go with the best available theory. Einstein was in line with this view in the sense that he saw that science started with intuition (problem solving). Science in Poppers view starts with problem solving and not observation (observation is the way in which to grapple with problems).

For Popper any theory X is better than a rival theory Y if X has greater empirical content, and hence greater predictive power, than Y. This means that science is deductive, not inductive. Popper was different from the Logical Positivists in that he did not claim that non-science was meaningless.

Science is interested in theories with a high informative content. The higher the informative content of a theory, the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the more ways in which it may turn out to be false. Informative content is therefore inverse in proportion to probability, though directly proportionate to testability.

Verisimilitude

The problem of articulating how one false theory might be closer to the truth than another false theory. This is closely connected therefore with falsifiability, in the sense that a theory may be highly informative, yet eventually falsified. This does not mean the theory is worthless as at some stage it had a level of predictive power and explanation. This level is the degree of its verisimilitude.

Conjecture

Conjecture simply refers to a proposition that is unproven, but thought to be true and not disproven i.e. supporting information of a given scientific theory is conjecture of that theory.

Refutation

A falsification or objection. A given piece of empirical information or evidence might be conjecture or refutation for a theory.

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