Is there a problem of induction?

At the heart of the problem of induction is the question of how we can get from particular things to universals. Why not just deny the problem exists? We don’t go from particulars to universals, but we see both simultaneously, the first more distinctly than the second. Even if we only see one thing of a kind, we can still relate to it as able to be studied, such that we kow that by understanding this one we will understand all of the same kind. There is often the risk of identifying particular traits with common ones, and this problem can be more or less, but even to recognize it as a problem requires some grasp of the universal. To my mind, experience teaches that there are some things (like numbers, human beings, more general considerations of things) which are easier to get to the universal with than other things. Other things do not allow us to form a clear universal, so we need to make one up for the moment (not arbitrarily, though) and we keep in mind that the universal we form is always falsifiable (these are properly scientific things.)

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5 Comments

  1. Peter said,

    April 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Hello James,
    This is Peter Halpin. This post was very helpful. It seems like many of the problems that modern philosophy has created for us draw us into debates using vocabularies that have been rigged prior to the discussion. I saw a comment of yours of on Ed Feser’s blog, and his recent book was very helpful for me in understanding the illicit rejection of formal and final causes. I hope you and the family are well. Are you still in Rome?

  2. April 25, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    We just left Rome a few weeks ago and are slumming for jobs teaching in the fall semester. Saw your little guy on Facebook.

    Feser’s book has done a lot of good for a lot of people. Thomism is often hard to understand simply because it is so simple and basic that we can’t see it. Oddly enough, so far as modern science is mathematical it more demonstrates by formal causes, even if the idea of substantial from isn’t of much use to the method they are using.

    One of the good parts of living after the modern age, like us, is that the idea that there can be one and only one approach to studying nature is dead or dying. The naturalists are probably the last wail of a dying age. This is not to say that atheism will die out, but I expect it to morph into a more dangerous strain of religious syncretism. This is more deadly since it will be able to co-opt theist arguments, and attract women (which straight out atheism can’t do well) But if this ends up happening, I’ll only be right by chance. It’s just a guess.

  3. David said,

    July 17, 2009 at 5:10 am

    This blog post, though short, actual greatly enlightened me about solving the problem of induction as it has been holding me up with my world theory for several weeks now.

    Thanks for pointing me in another direction.

    I think I understood this already, but I didn’t know how to articulate my ideas, this has given me the proper ammunition to argue and debate successfully.


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