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Induction, epistemic issues in

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P024-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Consider the following:

  • (1) Emeralds have been regularly dug up and observed for centuries; while there are still emeralds yet to be observed, every one observed so far has been green.

It is easy to see why we regard (1) as evidence, if true, that:

  • (2) Every emerald observed up until 100 years ago was green.

(1) logically implies (2): there is no way (1) could be true without (2) being true as well. It is less easy to see why we should think that (1), if true, is any evidence at all that:

  • (3) All hitherto unobserved emeralds are green as well.

(1) does not logically imply (3): it is consistent with (1) that (3) be false – that the string of exclusively green emeralds is about to come to an end. None the less, we do regard (1) as evidence, if true, that (3). What, if anything, justifies our doing so?

To answer this question would be to take a first step towards solving what is known as the ‘problem of induction’. But only a first step. There is, at least on the surface, a wide variety of arguments that share the salient features of the argument from (1) to (3): their premises do not logically imply their conclusions, yet we think that their premises, if true, constitute at least some evidence that their conclusions are true. A fully fledged solution to the problem of induction would have to tell us, for each of these arguments, what justifies our regarding its premises as evidence that its conclusion is true. Still, the question as to how this step might be taken has been the focus of intense philosophical scrutiny, and the approaches outlined in this entry have been among the most important.

Citing this article:
Kaplan, Mark. Induction, epistemic issues in, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P024-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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