Induction taken the time to critically engage with

Induction as proposed by Bacon is defined as “a picture of scientific reasoning and practice according to which scientists arrive at explanatory theories by making observations and formulating generalizations on the basis of their specific observations” (Scott & Mungwini, 2015:42). An Inductive argument is regarded as a particular form of reasoning which tends to reach a probable conclusion about a specific phenomenon on a basis of limited evidence. Such an argument is as follows: Many students that took a philosophy of science class have plagiarized in their assignments, as a lecture, I have found that most of the students who admitted to committing plagiarism in their assignments have not taken the time to critically engage with the topics given in their assignments. Therefore, all students who plagiarize in their philosophy of science assignments don’t take the time to critically engage with the topics given in their assignments.Looking at the premises of the given argument, the premises indicate some degree of support to the conclusion, but do not necessarily guarantee it. But why is it the case that the premises do not necessarily guarantee the conclusion? The answer is simple; the lecturers observation is based on most but not all students who admitted to having plagiarized in their assignments because of not taking the time to engage with the topic, as such, this implies that the given premises are based on limited evidence and therefore, the conclusion that all students who plagiarize don’t take the time to engage with topics is said to follow from a probable basis. Thus, we can say that the conclusion of an inductive argument is subjected to probability regardless of its premises being true because the conclusion does not provide us with any more information than what is contained in the premises as seen from the example of “students who commit plagiarism”.The problem of induction originated with David Hume when he pondered whether if the process of inductive reasoning can in fact provide us with a generalized conclusion by making inferences from particular observations? This problem of induction begins with the examination of cause-and-effect, because, as Hume understood it, “all reasoning concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause-and-effect” (Scott & Mungwini, 2015:46). For Hume, the relations of cause-and-effect are not whatsoever formed from a basis of reason, but from the basis of induction. This is because for which ever cause there may be, there exists several effects which are possible, and the definite effect cannot be formed by inferring about the cause, rather one must infer from events of the causal relation to find that which it holds. Hume further asserts that “…as a general proposition, which admits of no exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance, attained by reasoning a priori, but arises entirely from experience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with each other” (Allhoff, Kelly & McGrew, 2009:221).Let’s consider the problem of the uniformity of nature. As humans, we often times presuppose that a natural event will always occur as it always has in the past for the following reason, our observation of the natural event that occurred today and all the other days prior to today has yielded nothing different, but the same exact results. As such, we therefore conclude there is a particular uniformity regarding the natural event, and thus we expect the same natural event to occur tomorrow on the basis of that particular uniformity. This gives rise to what we call “the principle of uniformity of nature”. Now let’s consider the following example:Premise1: The sun has always risen in the past.Premise 2: The sun has risen today.Conclusion: Therefore, the sun will rise tomorrow as it always has in the past.Now based on the principle of the uniformity of nature, it appears that by making such a statement, we are somehow justified in assuming that the past will resemble the future, however this is the same justification Hume argues against. For Hume, there is a valid connection between premises 1and 2 and the conclusion because both the premises are true and give support to the conclusion, however it is worth noting that one makes this connection not by reason, but by way of induction because we are inferring the future on the basis of past experience. Thus, we cannot be justified in assuming that the uniformities of nature which are observed in the past will in fact hold in the future because the uniformity of nature is known neither by experience nor by reason, but by way of induction, and so the problem of induction still remains.Lastly, looking at the problem of reliance upon past experience from which we draw inferences, we can argue against Hume on the basis of past experiences. For instance, if everyone had observed a specific event that yielded the same outcome, then it would seem logical that the specific event will always yield a similar outcome. However, for Hume, the problem arises when our knowledge of future events is founded on the basis of past experience, because, we do not know what the future holds, as such, past experiences can only guarantee the future by a certain degree of probability. So “Here lies the issue of extrapolating knowledge based on the experience of particular events in the past and applying them to possible future events. Hence, knowledge founded upon past experience that is applied to similar events in the future will be-at most-probable. No projection can be absolute fact” (Scott & Mungwini, 2015:47).We have argued that relations of cause-and-effect are not whatsoever formed from a basis of reason, but rather from the basis of induction. Furthermore, we have argued that the connection between the premises and the conclusion of an inductive argument does not follow by reason, but also by way of induction. Lastly, we have argued that, we can only make inferences about future experiences as long as we acknowledge that past experiences do not guarantee the future experiences. Summing up the three most common problems of induction, I come the conclusion that; the problem of induction poses a challenge on how we perceive knowledge, particularly with respect to the methods (primarily inductive reasoning) that we use to obtain that knowledge.

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