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Posts Tagged ‘Hume’

Fallacy of Evidentialism

Posted by allzermalmer on August 18, 2013

There are two philosophers, who are taken to be generally representative of Evidentialism. These two philosophers are David Hume and C.K. Clifford. These two philosophers have two quotes that are examplars of their Evidentialism thesis. They are, respectively, as follows.

“A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence…when at last [a wise man] fixes his judgement, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability.” – David Hume in “Of Miracles” (Italics are Hume’s)

“We may believe what goes beyond our experience, only when it is inferred from that experience by the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know…It is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence” – W.K. Clifford in “The Ethics of Belief

Thomas Huxley,

Huxluy Evidence

Those quotes from these three writers are taken as representative of Evidentialism, and thus the Evidentialist Principle. The statements they make might appear to carry some validity & they might even seem to be sound.

However, Karl Popper holds that they are not valid. He also doesn’t hold that they are sound. They even contradict all empirical systems or all empirical propositions. They forbid us from ever believing or holding to any empirical system or empirical proposition, they forbid us from ever believing or holding to any scientific hypothesis or scientific proposition. But the problem of Induction applies to both the truth of this matter of fact assertion and the probability of the truth of this matter of fact assertion.

Both of the propositions contain signs of being based on Induction. Hume points out that a wise man will fix their judgements on a proposition when the evidence indicates that it is probable. Clifford points out that we may infer from experience what goes beyond our experience, but this is based on hypothesis that unknown is similar to the known.

Both of the propositions show that Evidentialism is founded on Induction, or inductive inferences.

Hume, supposedly, showed that it is logically impossible to infer the unknown from the known. It is logically impossible to derive the unknown from the known. Thus, Evidentialism is founded on a logical impossibility.

“The problem of the source of our knowledge has recently been restated as follows. If we make an assertion, we must justify it; but this means that we must be able to answer the following questions.

How do you know? What are the sources of your assertion?’ This, the empiricist holds, amounts in its turn to the question,

‘What observations (or memories of observations) underlie your assertion?’ I find this string of questions quite unsatisfactory.” – Karl Popper in “The Sources of Knowledge and Ignorance

Popper presents the Evidentialist Principle, in that quote, as saying that “If we make an assertion, we must justify it“. If you make an assertion, then you must justify it, or making an assertion implies must justify the assertion. You would have to answer one question, ‘How do you know? What are the sources of your assertion?’, and have to answer another question, ‘What observations (or memories of observations) underlie your assertion?’. 

As Popper points out, the Evidentialist Principle is an answer to The Problem of Source of Knowledge. So we may suppose that Evidentialism and Induction are to be based on the Source of a proposition or an empirical proposition. It seeks that the source of a proposition to be justified.

Criticizing or discrediting a proposition because of the source has some similarity to the Genetic Fallacy: “if the critic attempts to discredit or support a claim or an argument because of its origin (genesis) when such an appeal to origins is irrelevant.”

With the Genetic Fallacy, a proposition is being discredited, or supported, because it is “paying too much attention to the genesis of the idea rather than to the reasons offered for it”. The origin, or source, of the proposition is used to discredit, or support, the proposition.

Evidentialism would discredit a proposition because the source of the proposition is without justification.

We also find that David Hume presents an example of the questions that Popper finds to be unsatisfactory.

“All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you were to ask a man, why he believes any matter of fact, which is absent; for instance, that his friend is in the country, or in France; he would give you a reason; and this reason would be some other fact; as a letter received from him, or the knowledge of his former resolutions and promises…All our reasonings concerning fact are of the same nature. And here it is constantly supposed that there is a connexion between the present fact and that which is inferred from it. Were there nothing to bind them together, the inference would be entirely precarious.

When it is asked, What is the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be, that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions concerning that relation? it may be replied in one word, Experience. But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience? this implies a new question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication.” – David Hume in “Sceptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding” (Italics are Hume’s)

David Hume himself goes down the line of questioning that Popper brings up. For example, suppose that some assertion is made like “all ravens are black”. This assertion is what Hume calls a Matter of Fact, i.e. Synthetic proposition or Contingent proposition. It is Possible that it is true that “all ravens are black” and it is possible that it isn’t true that “all ravens are black”. This starts a line of questioning once this assertion is presented.

Question: What is the nature of reasoning concerning that matter of fact?
Evidence: The assertion is founded on the relation of cause and effect.
Question: What is the foundation of reasoning and conclusion concerning that relation of cause and effect?
Evidence: The relation of cause and effect of that assertion is founded on Experience.

These two questions follow a basic form that Popper is bringing up, and the type of basic form that Popper finds unsuitable, or the type of basic form of Evidentialism that is unsuitable. The basic reason for this is because another question follows from the answer to the previous two questions.

Question: What is the foundation of that conclusion drawn from experience?

This new question is where the Problem of Induction arises, or what Popper calls The Logical Problem of Induction.

If all Ravens are Black then justified in the relation of cause and effect. If justified in the relation of cause and effect then justified by experience. If justified by experience then experience is justified by Induction. So if all ravens are black then justified by Induction. But, Induction isn’t justified. So assertion all ravens are black isn’t justified. Therefore, Evidentialism would make it so that the assertion all Ravens are Black isn’t justified. This applies to all matters of fact, and thus all empirical and scientific assertions.

“It is usual to call an inference ‘inductive’ if it passes from singular statements (sometimes called ‘particular’ statements), such as accounts of the results of observations or experiments, to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories. Now it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusions drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white. The question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions, is known as the problem of induction.” – Karl Popper in “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” (Italics are Popper’s)

The Problem of Induction comes about because Induction relies on statement that is a matter of fact assertion, but this matter of fact assertion cannot, in principle, be inductively justified. So either all reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on experience or not all reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on experience.

This is a logical problem because either Induction relies on a statement that is either a contingent proposition or necessary proposition. We can call this the “Principle of Induction”. But the Principle of Induction can’t be a necessary proposition because the negation of the Principle of Induction is possible to be false. A necessary proposition can’t be possible to be false. So it is possible that Principle of Induction is true and it is possible that isn’t true that Principle of Induction is true. Therefore, the Principle of Induction is a contingent proposition.

Hume points out that matter of facts about dispositions and universal propositions are matters of facts. Thus dispositional propositions and universal propositions are contingent propositions. Dispositional propositions describe law-like behavior and universal propositions describe lawful behavior or law-like behavior. These would both be contingent propositions, and so we wouldn’t be justified, based on Induction, in asserting those dispositional propositions or universal propositions.

We wouldn’t be justified, based on Evidentialism, when it came to assertions about dispositional propositions or universal propositions. Science wouldn’t be justified, based on Evidentialism, when it came to assertions about dispositional propositions or universal propositions. But science is full of assertions about dispositional propositions and universal propositions. Therefore, science wouldn’t be justified in asserting dispositional propositions and universal propositions.

“[Hume] tried to show that any inductive inference- any reasoning from singular and observable cases (and their repeated occurrence) to anything like regularities or laws- must be invalid. Any such inference, he tried to show, could not even be approximately or partially valid. It could not even be a probable inference: it must, rather, be completely baseless, and must always remain so, however great the number of the observed instances might be. Thus he tried to show that we cannot validly reason from the known to the unknown, or from what has been experienced to what has not been experienced (and thus, for example, from the past to the future): no matter how often the sun has been observed regularly to rise and set, even the greatest number of observed instances does not constitute what I have called a positive reason for the regularity, or the law, of the sun’s rising and setting. Thus it can neither establish this law nor make it probable.” Karl Popper in “Realism and the Aim of Science” (Italics are Popper’s)

The assertion “all ravens are black” isn’t justified as true under Evidentialism and “all ravens are black” isn’t jusified as probably true under Evidentialism. Hume himself points out that the wise man doesn’t fixate his judgement on an assertion in which the evidence exceeds what we properly call probability. In other words, the Evidentialist doesn’t hold to assertions in which the evidence exceeds what we properly call probability. So Evidentialist only hold to assertion in which evidence shows it is true or probably true. So “all ravens are black” is only held by an Evidentialist if evidence shows it is true or at least probably true.

Popper presents a solution to the Problem of Induction, and thus treats assertions differently from Evidentialism. Popper rejects Induction, and thus rejects Evidentialism. The source of an assertion has nothing to do with either discrediting the truth of a proposition or supporting the truth of a proposition.

Matter of fact propositions, or scientific propositions, don’t discredit or support the source of an assertion. Science doesn’t support the truth of a proposition or support the probability of a proposition. It, basically, seeks to discredit the truth of a proposition. Science seeks to show that the proposition is false, not that the proposition is true or probably true. Science always seeks to discredit it’s proposition and not to support it’s propositions. So scientific propositions are, in principle, possible to show they are false and never show they are true or probably true. This includes both dispositional propositions and universal propositions.

In other words, Evidentialism seeks both positive justifications for assertion and negative justifications for assertion. Evidentialism would be based on “full decidability”. Falsifiability, or Falsification, seeks only negative justifications for assertions. Falsifiability would be based on “partial decidability” . These negative justifications, for Falsifiability, basically state that scientific assertion hasn’t been demonstrated false as of yet. This never indicates a positive justification for the assertion being true or probably true.

“The problem of induction arises from an apparent contradiction between the basic empiricist requirement (only experience can decide the truth or falsity of a scientific statement) and Hume’s insight into the logical impermissibility of inductive decision (there is no empirical justification of universal statements). This contradiction exists only if we assume that empirical statements must be empirically “fully decidable”, that is, that experience must be able to decide not only their falsity, but also their truth. The contradiction is resolved once “partially decidable” empirical statements are admitted: Universal empirical statements are empirically falsifiable, they can be defeated by experience.” – Karl Popper in “The Two Problems of The Theory of Knowledge” (Italics are Popper’s)

For Falsifiability, the source of an assertion is irrelevant when judging whether the assertion is either true or false, and the source of an assertion is irrelevant when judging whether justified in believing that assertion is true or probably true. The source of an assertion is irrelevant for the justification of the assertion. Would have to rely on Induction, and Induction isn’t justified itself. The only justification of an assertion, specifically an empirical assertion, is that it is possible to show that assertion is false. An empirical assertion has the possibility to be shown false, but it doesn’t have the possibility to be shown true (or probably true).

Science, thus, doesn’t care of the source of an assertion. Science is justified in believing, or holding to, an empirical proposition because that empirical proposition allows for the possibility that can be shown that it is false, but hasn’t been shown that it is false yet. For example, science would be justified in believing the empirical proposition that “all ravens are orange” if wasn’t for “some ravens are black”. It would be a negative justification, since don’t have another empirical proposition that contradicts it, or shows that it is false.

One of the basic mechanisms of Falsifiability is that works by deductive inference. Modus Tollens forms an example of deductive inference that Falsifiability uses. Given the conditional claim that the consequent is true if the antecedent is true, and given that the consequent is false, we can infer that the antecedent is also false.

If an empirical assertion is true implies another empirical assertion is true & the other empirical assertion is false, then original empirical assertion is false.

Principle of Modus Tollens:If all ravens are orange implies no ravens are not orange & some ravens are black, then not all ravens are orange. This is how the negative justification of empirical assertions works, which is deductive inference of modus tollens. It wouldn’t be possible for “not all ravens are orange” to be false. So it must be true.

The Principle of Modus Tollens is a necessary truth, which is different from the Principle of Induction. The Principle of Induction isn’t a necessary truth. It is possible that the Principle of Induction is false. So it might be true.

An assertion that is the conclusion of the Principle of Induction, or the assertion of a wise man that reviewed the Evidence, might be true. An assertion that is the conclusion of the Principle of Modus Tollens, or the assertion of a foolish man that never reviewed the Evidence, must be true.

The truth that the Principle of Modus Tollens always produces truth. It is similar to negative theology. It isn’t true that “all ravens are orange” & it isn’t true that “no ravens are not orange”. Each time saying what is true because true isn’t those false statements, since it is true that “not all ravens are black”.

The contradiction between “all ravens are orange” and “not all ravens are orange” are exclusive, they both can’t be true and no intermediary empirical propositions between them. If know that “all ravens are orange” is false then know that “not all ravens are orange” is true. All ravens are orange implied no ravens are not orange & some ravens are black. Therefore, it is necessarily true that not all ravens are orange. If Know that “not all ravens are orange” is true then “not all ravens are orange” is true. “Not all ravens are orange” is true.

Both the Principle of Modus Tollens are dealing with scientific propositions. The scientific propositions are possibly true or possibly false. If combine scientific propositions with the Principle of Induction, then scientific proposition infered might be true. If combine scientific propositions with Principle of Modus Tollens, then scientific proposition infered must be true. The negative justification allows for things that aren’t possibly not true & hold to statements that are only true, while positive justification allows for things that are only possibly true & hold to some statements that aren’t only true.

So Evidentialist like David Hume, or C.K. Clifford, would be justified in holding some scientific propositions that aren’t only true. Evidentialist would hold to both true statements and false statements. While the Non-Evidentialist, which follows Falsifiability or negative justification, would hold only to true statements. The Non-evidentialist wouldn’t be justified in asserting a scientific statement, even though conclusions drawn from it must be true.

Thus, Evidentialism is fallacious because the assertions that it concludes to be justified in holding, based on the evidence, aren’t truth-preserving. It’s conclusions of justified scientific propositions aren’t based on the evidence or derived by positive support it receives from the evidence. However, it is completely opposite with Non-Evidentialism of Falsification, or it isn’t fallacious.

The Evidentialist would be acting irrationally by seeking their justification, while the Falsifiabilist, which is necessarily a Non-Evidentialist, would be acting rationally by not seeking the Evidentialist justification.

Huxley’s assertion, in his examplar of Evidentialism, mentions that “merciless to fallacy in logic.” But we later find out that Evidentialism isn’t “merciless to fallacy in logic”, but is founded on a fallacy in logic itself. David Hume recognized this, even though exemplar of Evidentialism. Instead, he went about acting irrationally by seeking a (positive) justification of proposition by evidence & the rest of Evidentialism followed, like C.K. Clifford and Thomas Huxley. They would all go about by searching for evidence that proposition is true and end right back in the same place.

Finding Evidence

So we finally come full circle with the fallacy of Evidentialism, and find the source of the Evidentialist fallacy.

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Hume and The Impossibility of Falsification

Posted by allzermalmer on May 5, 2013

Hume’s logical problem of induction as Hume presents it and Popper presents it, deals with contingent statements. The affirmation or the negation of the same contingent statement is possible. Take the contingent statement that “All Swans are White”: It is both possible that “All Swans are White” and it is also possible that  not “All Swans are White”. Logic alone cannot decide if “All Swans are White” is either true or false. So it would be decided by some other way as to wither its affirmation or negation to be true. Hume, and Popper, say that experience cannot show the truth of the contingent statement “All Swans are White”.

“Hume’s argument does not establish that we may not draw any inference from observation to theory: it merely establishes that we may not draw verifying inferences from observations to theories, leaving open the possibility that we may draw falsifying inferences: an inference from the truth of an observation statement (‘This is a black swan’) to the falsity of a theory (‘All swans are white’) can be deductively perfectly valid.” Realism and The Aim of Science

(H) Hypothesis: All Swans are White
(E) Evidence: This is a Black Swan

Hume, as Popper takes him in his problem of induction, showed that we cannot show that (H) is true, no matter how many individual swans that are white we have observed. To show that (H) is true, we must verify every case of (H). (H) is a Universal statement, its scope is that of all times and all places. The universal statement is both omnipresent and omnitemporal in its scope. It makes no restriction on temporal location and spatial location. (E) makes a Singular statement, its scope is of a particular time and a particular place. It makes a restriction on temporal location and spatial location. Popper held that we can know (E) is true, ‘This is a Black Swan’. Thus, we cannot know (H) All Swans are White but we can know (E) This is a Black Swan.

Hume’s logical problem of induction, as Popper takes it, goes something like this:

(i) Science proposes and uses laws everywhere and all the time; (ii) Only observation and experiment may decide upon the truth or falsity of scientific statements; (iii) It is impossible to justify the truth of a law by observation or experiment.

Or

(i*) Science proposes and uses the universal statement “all swans are white”; (ii*) Only singular observational statements may decide upon the truth or falsity of ‘all swans are white’; (iii*) It is impossible to justify the truth of the universal statement ‘all swans are white’ by singular observational statements.

It is taken as a fact that (i) or (i*) is true. So there is no question about either (i) or (i*). So the conflict of Hume’s logical contradiction arises between (ii) and (iii) or (ii*) and (iii*). Popper accepts (iii) or (iii*). So the only way out of Hume’s logical problem of induction is to modify or reject (ii) or (ii*) to solve the contradiction.

Popper thus solves Hume’s logical problem of induction by rejecting (ii) or (ii*) and replacing it with a new premise. This new premise is (~ii).

(~ii) Only observation and experiment may decide upon the falsity of scientific statements
Or
(~ii*) Only singular observation statements may decide upon the falsity of ‘all swans are white’.

Popper rejects (ii) or (ii*), which basically said that only singular observation statements can show that either universal statements are true or false. Popper rejects this because of (iii), and says that Singular observation statements can only show that universal statements are false. Popper believes, as the quote at the beginning of the blog says, that Hume’s logical problem of induction doesn’t show that we can’t show that a universal statement is false by a singular observational statements. But is this what Hume showed to be true?

It does not appear that Hume’s logical problem of induction even allows Popper to escape with the modification of (ii) to (~ii). It appears that Hume’s logical problem of induction does not allow Popper to escape from “fully decidable” to “partially decidable”, i.e.  decide both truth or falsity to cannot decide truth but only falsity.

Take the singular observational statement that Popper gives in the quote, i.e. ‘This is a black swan’. It is a singular statement, but the statement contains a universal within it, it contains “swan”. “Swan” are defined by their law-like behavior, which are their dispositional characteristics, and is a universal concept. These dispositions are law-like, and thus universal in scope as well. And by (iii) we cannot determine if something is a “swan” because of that. The concept “swan” is in the same position as “all swans are white”. They are both universal, and because of (iii) cannot be shown to be true.

“Alcohol” has the law-like behavior, or disposition, or being flammable. So if we were to say that ‘This is alcohol’. We would have to check all the alcohol that existed in the past, present, future, and all places in the universe in which it was located. We would have to light them to see if they catch fire, and thus flammable. Only than could we say that “This is alcohol”, and know that it is alcohol. But to do so would be to verify a universal through singulars, which is impossible by (iii).

In fact, Hume even talks about dispositions and law-like behavior in his talks about the problem of induction. For example, Hume says that “we always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we have experienced, will follow from them.” Hume is specifically attacking dispositions as well, which means he is attacking universal concepts and universal statements.

“Our senses inform us of the colour, weight, and consistence of bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever inform us of those qualities which fit it for the nourishment and support of a human body…The bread, which I formerly eat, nourished me; that is, a body of such sensible qualities was, at that time, endued with such secret powers: but does it follow, that other bread must also nourish me at another time, and that like sensible qualities must always be attended with like secret powers?” Enquiry’s Concerning Human Knowledge

From Popper’s point of view, science can only show the falsity of a universal statement through the truth of a singular statement. The singular statement would have to contradict the universal statement and the singular statement would have to be true.

(h) If it rained then wet ground.
(e) Not a wet ground
(c)Thus, it didn’t rain.

If we assume that both (h) and (e) are true, then we accept a contradiction. Contradictions can’t possibly be true. So we know that at least one of these two must be false. But which one is false and which one is true, (h) or (e).

But how can we show the truth of a singular observational statement when it relies on a universal concept, and universal concepts fall for (iii) just as much as universal statements? Hume’s position of the logical invalidity of of induction, i.e. (iii), also holds not only with universal statements but also universal concepts, i.e. law-like behavior/ dispositional characteristics. How does Popper respond to this?

Popper accepts the invalidity of reaching universal statements through experience, but takes it that we accept singular observational statements based on conventions. We conventionally accept the singular observation statement as true.

Hume’s logical problem of induction shows this:

(H) All Swans are White
(E) This swan is black

Now we may either accept (H) as a convention or accept (E) as a convention, or both as conventions. Popper rejects accept (H) as a convention, because you cannot show that a convention is false. Showing something false is what (~ii) was used to solve the original problem of induction. He wants to show that (H) is false, which is consistent with (~ii), but the only way to do that is if (E) can be shown true. But (E) contains a universal concept and (iii) prevents us from experiencing dispositions or law-like behaviors, i.e. Swan or Alcohol. (iii) applies just as much to universal statements as it does to universal concepts. (E) is based on universal concepts and so has to be accepted as a convention, to escape (iii), in order to show that (H) is false and be consistent with (i) and (~ii). (H) has to have the ability to be shown false to be falsifiable, and not being a convention means it has the ability to be shown false.

Contrary to what Popper thinks, Hume’s logical problem of induction doesn’t even allow you to show a falsifying instance. Thus, following full implications of Hume’s logical problem of induction, we can neither show the truth of a universal statement or show the falsify of a universal statement.

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Did Popper Solve The Problem of Induction?

Posted by allzermalmer on October 3, 2012

Karl Popper said that he believed he had solved the “Problem of Induction”, or what he called “Hume’s Problem”. But did Karl Popper really solve the Problem of Induction or Hume’s Problem? Maybe we should (1) take a look at what Popper considered to be Hume’s problem, and (2) see what Popper says his solution to the problem is. (Whether or not Popper did correctly identify Hume’s problem, is of no concern here).

Before we do this, I think we should start out with something basic, or part of basic, logic.

(A) Universal Quantifier Affirmative (All S are P): For each x, if x is S, then x is P
(E) Universal Quantifier Negation (No S are P) : For each x, if x is S, then x is not P
(I) Existential Quantifier Affirmative (Some S are P): There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
(O) Existential Quantifier Negation (Some S are not P): There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P

“All of the categorical propositions illustrated above can be expressed by using either the universal quantifier alone or the existential quantifier alone. Actually, what this amounts to is the definition of the universal quantification of propositions in terms of existential quantification and the definition of existential propositions in terms of universal quantification.” p. 349 Formal Logic: An Introductory Textbook by John Arthur Mourant

Now this means that the Universal Quantifier (UQ) can be expressed in a logically equivalent form to an Existential Quantifier (EQ), and the Existential Quantifier can be expressed in a logically equivalent form to Universal Quantifier. For something to be logically equivalent means they mean the same thing in a logical sense. Logically equivalent statements have the exact same truth. One can’t be true and the other false, for this would mean they are both necessarily false.

Universal Quantifiers to Existential Quantifiers

A: For each x, if x is S, then x is P    There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P
E: For each x, if x is S, then x is not P    There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
I: Not for each x, if x is S, then x is not P    There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P
O: Not for each x, if x is S, then x is P   There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P

A: For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black  ↔  There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black
E: For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black  ↔  There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
I: Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black  ↔  There exists at least on x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
O: Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black  ↔  There exists at least on x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black

Existential Quantifiers to Universal Quantifiers

A: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P    For each x, if x is S, then x is P
E: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P     For each x, if x is S, then x is not P
I: There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is P   Not for each x, if x is S, then x is not P
O: There exists at least one x, such that x is S and x is not P    Not for each x, if x is S, then x is P

A: There does not exist at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black  ↔  For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black
E:
There does not exist at least one x, such that x is S and x is P  ↔  For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black 
I:
There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black  ↔  Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black
O:
There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is not Black  ↔  Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black

It needs to be pointed out first that there are two types of statements.
(1)Necessary Truth: Statement whose denial is self-contradictory.
(2) Contingent Truth: One that logically (that is, without self-contradiction) could have been either true or false.

(1a) “All bachelors are unmarried males”
(2a) “Justin Bieber is an unmarried male”

A necessary truth is said to have no empirical content. A contingent truth is said to have empirical content.

Hume’s problem was that he found that he cannot justify induction by demonstrative argument, since he can always imagine a different conclusion.

What Popper takes to be “Hume’s Problem”

“It is usual to call an inference ‘inductive’ if it passes from singular statements (sometimes called ‘particular’ statements), such as accounts of the results of observations or experiments, to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories. Now it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusions drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white. The question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions, is known as the problem of induction.” pg. 3-4 Logic of Scientific Discovery

“The root of this problem [of induction] is the apparent contradiction between what may be called ‘the fundamental thesis of empiricism’- the thesis that experience alone can decide upon the truth or falsity of scientific statements- and Hume’s realization of the inadmissibility of inductive arguments.” pg. 20 Logic of Scientific Discovery

Here’s an Inductive argument

Singular: (P1) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
Singular: (P2) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black

Universal: (C) For each x, if x is Crow, then x is Black

Popper’s Solution to “Hume’s Problem”

“Consequently it is possible by means of purely deductive inferences (with the help of the modus tollens of classical logic) to argue from the truth of singular statements to the falsity of universal statements. Such an argument to the falsity of universal statements is the only strictly deductive kind of inference that proceeds, as it were, in the ‘inductive direction’ that is, from singular to universal statements.”pg. 21 Logic of Scientific Discovery

Here’s Popper’s solution

Universal: (P1) For each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black
Singular: (P2) There exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black
Universal: (C) Not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black

Singular statement leads to a universal statement. From there exists at least one x, such that x is Crow and x is Black, the conclusion is reached that not for each x, if x is Crow, then x is not Black.

Here’s Poppers understanding of Induction: “It…passes from singular statements…to universal statements…”

Here’s Poppers solution to the ‘Problem of Induction: “Such an argument to the falsity of universal statements is… from singular to universal statements.”

So going from singular statement to universal statement can be justified by  going from singular statements to universal statements. This falls for the problem of induction again, because this is a circular argument that is used to defend induction.

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Popper, Hume, Induction, Falsifiability, and Science

Posted by allzermalmer on September 30, 2012

Here are some interesting things from Karl Popper on Falsification and Induction, or Hume on Induction.

“we merely have to realize that our ‘adoption’ of scientific theories can only be tentative; that they always are and will remain guesses or conjectures or hypotheses. They are put forward, of course, in the hope of hitting upon the truth, even though they miss it more often than not. They may be true or false. They may be tested by observation (it is the main task of science to make these tests more and more severe), and rejected if they do not pass…Indeed, we can do no more with a proposed law than test it: it is no use pretending that we have established universal theories, or justified them, or made them probably, by observation. We just have not done so, and cannot do so. We cannot give any positive reasons for them. They remain guesses or conjectures- though well tested ones.” Realism and the Aim of Science

Now someone might wonder how we cannot give any positive reasons for establishing the universal theories, or justified them, or made them probable, by all the observations that confirm its predictions on tests. This comes from what Popper takes to be Hume’s problem of induction.

“[Hume] tried to show that any inductive inference- any reasoning from singular and observable cases (and their repeated occurrence) to anything like regularities or laws- must be invalid. Any such inference, he tried to show, could not een be approximately or partially valid. It could not even be a probable inference: it must, rather, be completely baseless, and must always remain so, however great the number of the observed instances might be. Thus he tried to show that we cannot validly reason from the known to the unknown, or from what has been experienced to what has not been experienced (and thus, for example, from the past to the future): no matter how often the sun has been observed regularly to rise and set, even the greatest number of observed instances does not constitute what I have called a positive reason for the regularity, or the law, of the sun’s rising and setting. Thus it can neither establish this law nor make it probable.” Realism and the Aim of Science

I think it should be pointed out, Hume did bring up that the basic idea of induction was that “we suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which lie beyond the reach of our discovery.” Induction is also done in other ways besides going from particular statements to universal statements.

[I.] Move form particular statement to particular statement.
In 1997 the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. In 1998 the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Thus, the Chicago Bulls will win against the Utah Jazz the next time they play in the NBA Finals.

[II.] Move from general statement to general statement.
All NFL teams made tons of money this year. Thus, all NFL teams will make tons of money next year.

[III.] Move from general statement to particular statement.
All NFL teams made tons of money this year. Thus, the Ravens will make tons of money next year.

[IV.] Move from particular statement to general statement.
This crow is black. Thus, all crows are black.

Each of these, though, follow what Hume points out for Induction. They are going from the known to the unknown, which does not have to include the future or past.Hume also says that the only thing that can take us from the known to the unknown is causality, or a necessary connection between two events to form a necessary causal relation. But Hume already pointed out that this relation is not found by experience. So Hume comes to the conclusion that since the necessary relation between cause and effect or continuation of that relationship, is not shown by experience nor demonstrative,  or that the principle of induction is not known by experience or demonstrative, but that they are creations of the human imagination that cannot be shown to be true based on experience or reason, and any justification of them will either rely on an infinite regress or circular reasoning. So they cannot be proven to be true.

This would mean that when science proposes either a causal connection, or what will happen in the future, or what happens beneath sensible qualities, cannot be proved by experience to be true , or by reason to be true, or even held to be probably true. IOW, we are not justified in proposing things beyond what is known, since they cannot be shown to be true or probably true. So scientific hypotheses are unjustified and cannot be shown to be true or probably true, or natural laws cannot be shown to be true or probably true or justified.

Popper comes along and tries to save science, in some way. But you notice where his position eventually leads as well. He admits with Hume that we cannot demonstrate the truth of a scientific hypothesis or explanation; we cannot show by experiment the truth of a scientific hypothesis or explanation; we cannot show that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is probably true. All we can do is show if they are false. We can give negative reasons to a scientific hypothesis or explanation by it failing its severe experimental/observational tests. This is because it follows the demonstrative inference of modus tollens and disjunctive syllogism, so we can demonstrate that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is false.

So falsifiability, or refutabilty, can show you only that a scientific hypothesis or explanation is false. Refutability cannot demonstrate that the hypothesis or explanation is true, or has been shown by experience to be true, or is probably true.  It can only tell you that it may be true, and it has not failed any of its tests so far. It doesn’t even appears to care if something is true, only that it can be shown to be false.

And here are Hume on what Induction is, or relies on.

“that which we have had no experience, must resemble those which we have had experience, and nature continues uniformly the same.” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“probability is founded on the presumpition of a resemblances betweixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those, of which we have had none…” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“Thus not only our reason fails us in the discovery of the ultimate connexion of causes and effects, but even after experience has informed us of their constant conjunction, it is impossible for us to satisfy ourselves by our reason, why we should extend that experience beyond those particular instances, which have fallen under our observation. We suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which lie beyond the reach of our discovery.” Treatise of Human Nature:  Book I (Of the Understanding), Part III (Of Knowledge & Probability), Sect.VI.Of the Inference from the Impression to the Idea

“we always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we have experienced, will follow from them.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

“all arguments from experience are founded on the similarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

“From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions.” An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section IV. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II

 

 

 

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Whatever Is Conceivable Is Possible

Posted by allzermalmer on September 27, 2012

I am going to quote one little section in a book called Hume’s First Principles by Robert Fendel Anderson. This first part of the book is on Perceptions, and the first principle gone over on Perceptions is “Whatever is Conceivable is Possible”.

“The principle of the possible existence of whatever is conceivable is one which Hume finds both an evident principle and already an established maxim in metaphysics[1]. The application of the principle is frequently restricted to that which is clearly and distinctly conceivable: “…nothing of which we can form a clear and distinct idea is absurd and impossible.”[2] Again: “To form a clear idea of anything, is an undeniable argument for its possibility…”[3]. The possibility of existence, therefore, is of the essence of whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived; that is, its possibility is included or implied within it: “ ‘Tis an establish’d maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence…”[4] and: “Whatever can be conceiv’d by a clear and distinct idea necessarily implies the possibility of existence….”[5]

A clear and distinct idea, according to Hume’s doctrine, is one which neither contains nor implies a contradiction: “Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceived, implies no contradiction…”[6] Again: “How any clear, and distinct idea can contain circumstances, contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct idea, is absolutely incomprehensible….”[7] In saying that whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived is possible, therefore, it appears to be Hume’s intention also that whatever is self-consistent and noncontradictory is possible:

“Whatever can be conceiv’d by a clear and distinct idea necessarily implies the possibility of existence; and he who pretends to prove the impossibility of its existence by any argument deriv’d from the clear idea, in reality asserts, that we have no clear idea of it, because we have a clear idea. ‘Tis in vain to search for a contradiction in any thing that is distinctly conceiv’d by the mind.”[8]

The expression employed in the remarks thus far examined may lead the reader to suppose that there are some things clearly and distinctly conceived and some not- that some of our ideas are clear and distinct and some of them unclear and indistinct. Were this true, then it would follow that we have ideas of things the existence of which we must regard as impossible. There is evidence, however, that Hume considers all our ideas to be clear and distinct. He offers an argument to this conclusion, based on his doctrine that ideas are derived from impressions:

“…we need but reflect on that principle so oft insisted on, that all our ideas are copy’d from our impressions. For from thence we may immediately conclude, that since all impressions are clear and precise, the ideas, which are copy’d from them, must be of the same nature…”[9]

Since all perceptions are either impressions or ideas[10], we must conclude that there are no perceptions of any kind that are not clear and precise.

From the clarity and preciseness of all ideas, we may infer, moreover, that we possess no ideas of those things whose existence we must regard as impossible, but that any idea we may have is the idea of something the existence of which is possible. We find, indeed, that Hume does not always restrict the possibility of existence to that which is clearly and distinctly conceived, but extends it as well to everything that is conceived or imagined at all: “…whatever we conceive is possible.”[11] And: “…whatever we can imagine, is possible.”[12]Hume appears, indeed, to make no firm distinction between what is clearly and distinctly conceived and what is conceived or imagined merely, as is evidenced in his full statement of the metaphysical maxim: “ ‘Tis an establish’d maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words, that nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible.”[13] We are thus again justified, apparently, in supposing that all our ideas are equally clear and distinct, and that all things conceived are possible. Things which are contradictory and therefore impossible, on the other hand, cannot be conceived or imagined at all: “We can form the idea of a golden mountain, and from thence conclude that such a mountain may actually exist. We can form no idea of a mountain without a valley, and therefore regard it as impossible.”[14] Again: “ ‘Tis in vain to search for a contradiction in any thing that is distinctly conceiv’d by the mind. Did it imply any contradiction, ‘tis impossible it cou’d ever be coneiv’d.”[15]

Knowing then that self-contradictory things are neither conceivable nor possible, and knowing that whatever is conceived or imagined is possible, we may next inquire what things are in fact conceived or imagined and hence possible. From certain of Hume’s remarks one might infer that we conceive only perceptions; for it is only perceptions that are “present to” the mind: “…nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas…”[16] If this be true, then it is reasonable to suppose that we have clear and distinct ideas only of perceptions, as Hume sometimes appears to agree: “We have no perfect idea of any thing but of a perception.”[17] Now if we can conceive only of perceptions, then according to Hume’s principle it is only perceptions whose existence we may regard as possible. We may observe, moreover, that the remarks we have thus far examined do not imply that perceptions, as such, exist, but only that their existence is possible. Were there no further texts available to us from among Hume’s writings, we might justifiably conclude that what he calls “perceptions” are to be understood as a realm of mere essences which, taken together, comprehend all possibility, but which are not, of themselves, existence.”


[1] David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by L.A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), pp. 32, 250, Hereafter cited as Treatise.

[2] Treatise, pp.19-20. Cf> David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. and with an introduction by Henry D. Aiken(New York: Hafner Library of Classic, Hafner Publishing Company, 1948), p. 19, Philo speaking. Hereafter cited as Dialogues.

[3] Treatise, p. 89

[4] Treatise, p.32

[5] Treatise, p. 43

[6] David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding,” in An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding and an Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. and with an introduction by L.A. Selby-Bigge (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), p. 35. Hereafter cited as “Understanding.” Cf. Dialogues, p. 58, Cleanthes speaking.

[7] “Understanding.” P. 157

[8] Treatise p. 43.

[9] Treatise, p. 72; cf. p. 366.

[10] Treatise, pp. 1, 96.

[11] Treatise, p. 236.

[12] Treatise, p. 250

[13] Treatise, p. 32.

[14] Treatise, p. 32.

[15] Treatise, p.43. Cf. “Understanding,” p. 164.

[16] Treatise, p. 67; cf. pp.197,212.

[17] Treatise, p. 234.

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