The problem of induction: An epistemological and methodological response

Alan Robert Rhoda, Fordham University

Abstract

In this dissertation I respond to two related problems of induction. The negative problem is to rebut the Humean skeptical argument, which argues that induction cannot result in epistemically justified beliefs because the substantive assumptions upon which induction depends cannot be appropriately justified. The positive problem is to show that it is reasonable to rely on induction as a source of epistemically justified beliefs. With respect to the negative problem, I examine and reject several responses and then propose an original response of my own that combines a partially internalist/partially externalist account of epistemic justification with an internalist account of inference (i.e., one that requires having a conscious perspective on the relation between premises and conclusion). On this basis I argue that the substantive assumptions upon which induction depends can be noninferentially justified. With respect to the positive problem, I argue that inferences are essentially embedded within a process of inquiry, the aim of which is to solve epistemic problems. Two important consequences follow. First, we discover two distinct kinds of induction, which I call explanatory and evaluative inference, respectively. A complete solution to the positive problem, therefore, needs to address both. Second, methodological considerations bearing on the conduct of inquiry are epistemically relevant to the inferential justification of belief. I exploit this result by showing that there are methodologically necessary assumptions undergirding the conduct of inquiry. Chief among these is the correspondence thesis , i.e., that reality is significantly knowable, and significantly knowable by us. From this I derive several important epistemological corollaries. I then employ Bayes' Theorem to express the logic of explanatory and evaluative inference in terms of probabilities, and use the correspondence thesis and its corollaries to argue that we can make epistemically responsible estimations of those probabilities. It follows that we can responsibly rely on induction as a source of epistemically justified beliefs. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Alan Robert Rhoda, "The problem of induction: An epistemological and methodological response" (January 1, 2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3116867.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3116867

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