allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Problem of Induction’

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.

Advertisements

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

 

 

 

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Difference Between Verification and Falsification

Posted by allzermalmer on September 30, 2012

Karl Popper developed the idea that the demarcation between empirical statements, which was mostly taken to be scientific statements, and metaphysical statements was based on the idea of falsification. Popper was speaking out, or presenting, a different criterion to differentiate between empirical statements and metaphysical statements.

“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.” The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge

Verification meant that empirical statements, or scientific statements, are those that it is possible be decided to be true or false by experience. You can fully decide that the statement is true because experience has shown the statement is true. Like experience can show that “this apple is red in color”, so too can experience show the statement that “all apples in the refrigerator are red in color”. The refrigerator is in a specific place, at a specific time, and logically possible to see if all the apples in the refrigeration  are red in color. It can be opened and found that all the apples are red in color, or that all but one of the apples in the refrigerator are red in color, like one can be yellow. Thus, it is both logically possible to empirically verify the statement or empirically falsify the statement. It is logically possible to either show it is true or show it is false.

However, the statement that “all apples in refrigerators are red in color” is logically impossible to empirically verify. This is because this universal statement applies to all times and all places, while the previous universal statement applies to a specific time and specific place.Thus, this universal statement cannot be verified, but it can still be empirically falsified. You might not be able to check all the refrigerators that will, or have, existed in all places or all times, but those that you have observed have the empirical possibility of showing the statement to be false. You might not be able to check all refrigerators in all places and times, but finding a specific refrigerator that has a yellow apple, shows that all refrigerators, in all times and place, do not have all red apples in them. One case has been found to run counter to the universal claim. Thus, we learn that some refrigerators have only red apples in color and some refrigerators have yellow apples in color.

The point becomes that science can introduce whatever universal statement it wants, so long as it is logically possible to make one empirical observation to show it is false. We do not have to show that what it introduces is true by experience, just that it can make predictions that are logically possible to show false by experience.

Let us imagine that there is a person who walks amongst us, and this person knows all the laws of nature. Let us also assume that it is a trickster like Loki. It mixes some truth with some falsity, knowingly. It decides to come up with a falsifiable statement, which means that it is not fully decidable, i.e. it is partially decidable. It knows that this universal statement is false, but it still makes predictions that are possible to be shown false by experience. This being that is like Loki knows that all attempted experiments to show that statement is false by experience will fail, which means it passes every single experimental test that can be presented. You would be justified in accepting a false statement because you cannot show it is true but you can show it is false.

 

 

 

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Are All Empirical Statements Merely Hypotheses?

Posted by allzermalmer on December 19, 2011

This blog will be based on an article done by W.T. Stace. It is called, Are All Empirical Statements Merely Hypotheses? It appeared in the philosophical journal known as The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jan. 16, 1947), pp. 29-38.

It is sometimes stated that all empirical statements are only probable. This was stated by those like, and especially by, Rudolph Carnap. One philosopher who disagreed, and said that some empirical statements are certain, was G.E. Moore. Stace shall agree with Moore, but with some qualifications. The statement that will be the exemplar of what is being talked about will be the statement of “This key is made of iron”. Now this statement is a singular statement like x is Y.

“To say that this proposition can never be more than probable means, I assume, that there must always be some doubt as to its truth. The question we have to get clear about is: what is the doubt, or what are the doubts, which those philosophers who say that such a statement can never be more than probable, have in mind?”

Some of the doubts could be as follows for what makes this empirical statement probable: the laws of nature are statistical, we could be deceived by some sort of demons or might be dreaming, or statements that we make rely on memory and our memory could be wrong. None of these things seems to be what has lead some to think that all empirical statements are probable. That is because these doubts are arising from practical doubt because of the frailty of human faculties.

The philosophers, like Carnap, seem to be relying on theoretical/logical doubt. This seems to be based on the logic at which we arrive at empirical truths, regardless of the frailties of particular human beings. They seem to be saying that we arrive at these empirical statements, like “this key is made of iron”, are arrived at by means of induction. And, through the means of induction, we never arrive at certainty by by means of probability.

Stace quotes Carnap on the basic idea of which is to lead to all empirical statements are merely probable. Take the statement that “This key is made of iron”. This proposition will be known as P1. We can test P1 by seeing if it is attracted by a magnet, if it is then we have partial verification of P1. So here is what Rudolph Carnap says, which leads him to state that all empirical statements are merely probable in his book Philosophy and Logical Syntax:

“After that, or instead of that, we may make an examination by electrical tests, or by mechanical, chemical, or optical tests, etc. If in these further investigations all instances turn out to be positive, the certainty of the proposition P1 gradually grows…but absolute certainty we can never attain. the number of instances deducible from P1 is infinite. Therefore there is always the possibility of finding in the future a negative instance.”

Now this is the logical problem that we face. Anytime we perform a new test, and the test is passed, it only adds a degree of probability to the statement that “this key is made of iron”. And the problem, further, is that we can’t completely verify the statement, or be certain of it, because we would have to complete an infinite number of observations. But this is not only practically impossible, it is also logically impossible.

But there is some ambiguity of what Carnap means, because there are two ways that this can be taken. The first thing could be about the different kinds of tests. For we noticed that he brought up the tests that could be done, like magnetic, electrical, chemical, and etc. So the it could be meant that the number of different kinds of test is infinite, which means we would have to make an infinite number of kinds of tests in order to achieve complete verification of the statements truth. But Stace has an objection to this position.

“If an infinite number of kinds of tests of the key were possible, this would imply that the key must have an infinite number of different characteristics or properties to be tested for. But even if an object can have an infinite number of characteristics, it would not be necessary to test for them all in order to identify the object as iron. All we need is to verify the defining characteristics of iron, which are certainly finite in number. and there is, of course, no logical difficulty about doing that.”

Now there is a second possible meaning for which Carnap has in mind. We could do a single test of a defining characteristic like “being attracted by a magnet”, or what other defining characteristics there might be. These tests only make the statement probable because we may find that the key is attracted one time and perform many of the same tests a thousand times in succession and find the same results as the first test. But we can never be sure that an instance will not turn up in the future in which the object will not be attracted by a magnet (problem of induction). “If the same thing happens in the same circumstances in a vast number of times, each time it happens makes it a little more probable that it will happen again, but it can never be quite certain.”

It is true that scientists perform the same experiments, this is the repeatably of the scientific tests. What one scientist is able to do in a test, it has to be reproducible by other scientists around the world. The same experiment can be repeated by the same experimenter over and over, or can be done by other experimenters around the world. But why are experiments repeated? Is it because each fresh instance of a positive result of the same test adds to the probability of the conclusion? It seems not.

Let us assume that we have an object that is to be tested. We want to test whether it is composed of a certain substance, which we can call X. Now let us suppose that there is only one defining characteristic of X which we call A. The scientist is testing for Y. If Y is found it is a sign that the substance is X. Now, is it true that A may be repeated many times. But why?

“It is not because he supposes that a barren repetition of instances of A makes it more probable that the substance is X. It is always, on the contrary, because he has doubts whether he has satisfactorily established by his observations of the presence of A. It is not the validity of the inductive inference from A to X that he is doubting, but whether A is really present…the doubt which the experimenter is trying to exclude is not any logical doubt about induction, but practical doubts arising from difficulties of observation, possible deficiencies in apparatus, difficulty in ensuring that the experiment is made in the exact conditions required, and so on. He is not doubting that the inductive premises will lead to an absolutely certain conclusion. He is doubting whether he has satisfactorily established the inductive premises.”

What is going on is that the scientist procedure is that a single observation is sufficient to establish an inductive conclusion with certainty. But this is only the case provided that the premises have been established. So it is not the inductive conclusion that is being questioned, but it is the premises that are being questioned. As Stace says, “What is implied by the scientist’s procedure is that a single observation or experiment is sufficient to establish an inductive conclusion with certainty, provided the premises have been established. I hold that the scientist is right.”

Stace locates the problem at three points. And this is the problem of how some philosophers have reached the conclusion that all empirical statements are merely probable.

(1.) One of the problems was how philosophers thought that scientists were repeating experiments to try to dispel logical doubts about the validity of induction. What the scientists were doing, in fact, was trying to dispel practical errors in observing or establishing the premises on which an induction rests. The question of probability doesn’t fall within the inductive argument, but outside of the inductive argument.

“That is to say, what is only probable is not that, if A is once associated with B, it will always be associated with B, but that A has actually been found associated with B; not that if a substance has a certain specific gravity it is gold, but that the substance now before me actually has that specific gravity…a natural mistake located the question of probability within the inductive argument instead of outside of it; have extrapolated it from the practical sphere of observation, measurement, and so on, where it actually belongs, to the logical sphere of the inductive inference in which in reality it has no place.”

So the problem is not in the inductive argument itself, but outside of the argument. What is outside of the argument is making sure that you have made an observation that meets with the premises of the argument. This is what constant testing is about, to make sure that the observations are in line with the premises. It is not the argument being questioned, but something outside of the argument that is being questioned.

(2.) Another reason that it seems that it is brought up that empirical statements are probable deals with the view of induction where an application of the inductive principle to a type of cases different from that of the Iron key. This other application is based on generalizing from observations. For example, we generalize from observations of a number from a certain class to the whole class. This means, from observing some white swans, we go on to generalize to the class of swans. From seeing a certain number of swans being white, and not observing any black swans, we go on to say that All swans are white. This will be dealt with a little later on.

(3.) This view seems to follow, as some philosophers think, from what David Hume had to say on the problem of Induction. Hume showed that we can’t “prove” a conclusion in an inductive argument. Because of this, some seem to have imagine that because we can’t prove it, we can at least make it probable. But it doesn’t seem that this follows from what Hume said on the problem of Induction. But Stace does think that something follows from what Hume said on this problem.

Imagine that we have a single instance of A being associated with B, and we’ve ruled out all practical doubts from possible errors of observation or experiment. We now have, logically, two positions that we can take up.

The first is that we can assume the validity of the principle of Induction. So, in this single instance, we can conclude that A is always associated with B, and our conclusion follows with absolute certainer from our two premises of single observed association of A with B and the principle of induction. With these two premises, the conclusion is certain to start with, and so there is no increasing probability or probability at all.

The second is that you may not assume that validity of the inductive principle. Now this means that we follow Hume, which means that there’s no logical connection between the premises and the conclusion of induction. This means, nothing follows from induction, neither certainty nor probability. No matter how many single instances that support our inductive conclusion, the probability never arises above zero. (Karl Popper would agree with this point). There is no connection to say that because the conclusion obtained, that we can say that the probability of the premises rises some more. They are disconnected. It is like having three dots on a sheet of paper. They are disconnected from each other. So when we affirm one, we can’t affirm any of the others because they’re not connected with one another.

“I have affirmed that, given the inductive principle, a single case will prove the inductive conclusion with certainty, I ought to give a formulation to the inductive principle which embodies this…”If in even a single instance, we have observed that a thing of the sort A is associated with a thing of the sort B, then on any other appearance of A, provided the other factors present along with A are the same on both occasions, it is certain that A will be associated with B.””

There is the clause of “provided the other factors present along with A are the same on both occasions.” This forms part of the principle, which comes down to “Same cause, same effect”. There is an example to help make this point clear. If the bell is struck in air then it produces sound. But it doesn’t follow that a bell struck in a vacuum will produce sound. This is because of the clause that was inserted into the principle. The factors aren’t the same, and so they’re not the same type of thing. But it does introduce a new inductive discovery.

There is one obvious objection that one could make to this principle. It could be said that this new interpretation is merely an assumption that is incapable of proof. So if this is a matter of being arbitrary choice of how to formulate it in terms of certainty and probability, then we ought not to assume more than is necessary to justify our sciences and our practice. So someone could say, “it will be quite sufficient for these purposes to assume that, if A is associated with B now, it will probably be associated with B at other times and places. On this ground the probability formulation should be preferred.”

But putting the term certainty in there is not meant to be arbitrary, but it is mean to represent a formulation of the assumption which has been the basis of science and practice. But maybe Stace should be more clear, which is what he tries to do like as follows:

“If you have one case of a set of circumstances A associated with B, and you are quite sure you have correctly established this one association, then, assuming the uniformity of nature, or the reign of law, or the principle of induction-call it what you will- a repetition of identically the same set of circumstances A is bound to be associated with B. For if not, you would have a capricious world, a world in which A sometimes produces B, and sometimes it does not, a world in which the kettle put on the fire may boil today, but freeze tomorrow. And this would clearly be a violation of the principle of induction which you have assumed.”

Now, if you assume the principle of induction, then a single case validates an induction. But now Stace will try to prove his second contention that if you don’t assume the principle of induction, your inductive conclusion aren’t probable at all and there’s no repetition of instances, so no matter how great the number, then the probability is never raised above zero.

To establish this position, Stace will assume that Hume is right. This means, between the premises and the conclusion of an inductive argument there is absolutely no logical connection at all. This means that there is nothing to establish the slightest probability because they’re is no connection between them. So if we affirm one part, it has no connection to another to raise the probability of this part that is connected to what we affirmed. They are so completely disconnected that there’s no logical connection to even bring up probability.

For example, here is what Al-Ghazali said about causality, which is the same position that David Hume took up, and this is based in some ways on the principle of induction. “The affirmation of one does not imply the affirmation of the other; nor does its denial imply the denial of the other. The existence of one is not necessitated by the existence of the other; nor its non-existence by the non-existence of the other.” So when we affirm one thing with induction, like a correct experiment, this in no way can increase any probability when the affirmation of one doesn’t imply the affirmation of the other. How can you raise the probability when what you affirm has no connection to anything else to raise the probability of this other thing? You can’t.

Stace goes on to try to examine the types of cases in which generalize a whole class from a number of instances that are smaller than the whole class. Try to generalize about a whole class of swans from observing a few of the swans that are suppose to make up the whole class. If we observe one swan and it is white,nto conclude that all swans are white, we might be accused of generalizing from one instance. But if we make 10,000 observations, we might think we have a degree of probability to support the generalization. We go on to make observe 1 billion swans and they were white. This might lead us to go on to admit that the hypothesis has become even more probable. So, someone might say to defend the probability view, that how can we deny that we probability and use the probability view of induction?

“But the inductive principle only holds with the proviso, “if the factors present along with A are the same” in subsequent repitition of A. And this case of the swans is simply a case in which it is extremely difficult to be sure that this is so. A in this case means the defining characteristics of the class swan, and B means whiteness. Now different swans will have, along with the defining characteristics A, a number of other characteristics. and these will differ with different individual swans, not to mention circumambient differences of environment. Thus the first case of A you observed was really ACDE, and this was associated with B. The second case was APQR, the third AXYZ. Now, of course, it does not follow from the principle of induction that because ACDE was associated with B, therefore APQR and AXYZ must be associated with B. For we do not have there that exact repetition of the same sets of circumstances which the inductive principle requires.”

To try to remedy the situation that we are in, we constantly repeat observations of this class of swans. Now if we keep making these observations of A, and they’re found to have B, then we think it becomes more and more likely that we have eliminated other certain possibilities, and raise the probability. We want to eliminate some of the accidental characteristics of certain swans. This would be something like they’re size. food they eat, and the climates that they live in. When we rule out sets of circumstances as irrelevant, they become more probable.

The fundamental reason why there is constant repetition of observation on new members of class is that although in theory the association of A with B, once it is observed must always hold, is because in practice we never get our cases of pure A. “We can not isolate the system. It is always mixed up with extraneous circumstances. Thus the doubt which we are trying to dispel by repeated observations has nothing at all to do with Hume’s doubt about the validity of induction…” That doubt can’t be dispelled, no matter now many numerous observations we make. But the doubt that we are trying to get rid of isn’t the logical doubt. The doubt we are trying to get rid of is the practical doubt from the enormous complexity of nature, our frailty of our intellects which are unequal with the task to disentangle the complexities, or the inadequacy of the instruments that we have at our disposal to isolate the system present.

Some, like Carnap, have divided knowledge into empirical knowledge and necessary propositions. Necessary propositions would be those like mathematics and logic. Now the empirical propositions could be considered doubtful because the practical doubts that arise from our human infirmities. But this means that we ought to have the same doubts in concern with mathematics. This is why we have people that check our work in mathematics, to make sure that we made no practical doubts in the process that we followed.

“There is one sense in which mathematical, or, in general, deductive conclusions are certain this may be called the logical or theoretical sense. And there is another sense, which may be called the practical sense, in which they are only probable, since the mathematician or the syllogizer may err in his reasoning. The mathematician may miscalculate, and the syllogizer may make any one of a hundred mistakes. And if practical doubts are not a ground for denying that, in an appropriate sense, mathematics is certain, then practical doubts can not be a ground for denying that, in an appropriate sense, empirical conclusions are uncertain.”

“As it is with mathematical truths, so precisely it is with empirical truths. There is one sense in which an inductive conclusion is certain, namely, the theoretical sense that it follows with certainity from a single observation plus the inductive principle. And there is another sense, the practical one, in which it is probable only, because there may be errors in observation, experimentation, and the like.”

“The statement that empiricial knowledge may be theoretically certain is, of course, subject to the proviso that we accept the inductive principle. If we don’t accept it, then, of course, empirical knowledge is not even probable. It has no validity at all. In no case does any question of probability enter into the matter.”

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »