Hume's skeptical problem of induction

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Philosophy 101
  3. » Hume's skeptical problem of induction

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 11:10 am
I am working on a paper about Hume's problem of inductive reasoning. I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what I need to include in the paper. The problem has to do with there being no guarantee that because one thing caused something in the past, that it will do so in the future. I am struggling to get five pages out on the topic, and I am curious if anyone has any thoughts on what I need to include.

Here is my prompt. I obviously do not need people to write the paper for me, I just want to make sure that I am not be missing anything.

What is the skeptical problem about reasoning about matters of fact for Hume (or causal reasoning)? Is it a problem we need to worry about? What is Hume's skeptical solution? Is it a solution (or what is a skeptical solution anyway)?
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 01:04 pm
@Theaetetus,
I'm not directly familiar with Hume's account of inductive reasoning, but I think the issue is in how we approach the text. So, the first question is from which text of Hume's are you asserting your thesis? Treatise on Human Nature or Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding? Also, what is the book, part, and section from which you drawing from for your main thesis? I think with this down, it may be easier to give some points.

Off hand, it kind of sounds like this falls between humes inital analysis of the mind in Treatise and the nature of cause and effect in relation to necessary connection, which is a wide area to cover for a narrowed topic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 02:37 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
I am working on a paper about Hume's problem of inductive reasoning. I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what I need to include in the paper. The problem has to do with there being no guarantee that because one thing caused something in the past, that it will do so in the future. I am struggling to get five pages out on the topic, and I am curious if anyone has any thoughts on what I need to include.

Here is my prompt. I obviously do not need people to write the paper for me, I just want to make sure that I am not be missing anything.

What is the skeptical problem about reasoning about matters of fact for Hume (or causal reasoning)? Is it a problem we need to worry about? What is Hume's skeptical solution? Is it a solution (or what is a skeptical solution anyway)?


It would be better if you sketched in what your answers are, and then let others comment on them.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 03:42 pm
@Theaetetus,
We are only using the Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I think everything is in sections four and five. Four is the Skeptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, and Five is the SKeptical Solutions of These Doubts.

My main problem is the first question on what is Hume's skeptical problem about matters of fact. Is this his main problem "When we reason a priori and consider merely any object or cause as it appears to the mind, independent of all observation, it never could suggest to us the notion of any distinct object, such as its effect, much less show us the inseparable and inviolable connection between them."

Is this a problem that we need to worry about? Well only if we want to make our lives very difficult. We rely on our ability to base decisions in the future, on what happened in the past. If we deny ourselves this possibility, and turn it into a major problem, then life would be rather complicated.

Well, Hume's skeptical solution is custom and belief. Custom is what gives us the ability to infer that one thing will cause another, and belief is the feeling that moderates between one thing and its opposite. This part is easy and I am pretty sure that I only need to discuss those two parts.

Is Hume's account of custom and belief a solution to the problem? Well that assumes that there is actually a skeptical problem. To me, this whole issue is rather stupid and obvious, but I understand its importance to empiracism. Why would any one be worried that dropping an object will cause it to levitate or shoot off into the sky just because it is possible. Obviously, a skeptical solution only eases the concern that a skeptical problem seems to undermine commonly held beliefs and practices, but to me, only an insane person would find a major problem with inductive reasoning. Sure, humans can be wrong about causal inferences, but why should we suspect otherwise.

It's a skepticalsolution because it's compatible with saying that we don't have any reason for drawing these inferences. The skepticism is skepticism about our reasons for drawing causal inferences. Considering this last statement, I am having problems finding his problem that suggests that we have no reason for drawing these inferences. Wait, after typing that last line, I think what I quoted for the problem is exactly what I needed.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 04:32 pm
@Theaetetus,
Quote:

Is this a problem that we need to worry about? Well only if we want to make our lives very difficult. We rely on our ability to base decisions in the future, on what happened in the past. If we deny ourselves this possibility, and turn it into a major problem, then life would be rather complicated.

Hume doesn't deny that we make future decisions and that we can go on our lives doing it. That's his psychological solution of custom and belief. But it is a big obstacle on how to obtain truth and knowledge. As Hume admits, we are entirely capable of holding contradictary beliefs and this is not grounds for knowledge.

The billiard balls suddenly diverging from a straight line might be a bit insipid; but consider this example: A pig is on farm and everyday the farmer comes out to feed and care for the pig. This pig let's say after several weeks for being cared for and fed, comes to the custom and belief that he will be always be cared for and fed. But yet one day, the farmer comes out and breaks his neck instead.

Hume would say that pig did NOT have knowledge, but merely beliefs and false ones at that. Now when it comes to believing things about future, are we that much different from the pig? Hume's point is that we can never have knowledge of anything of the future, only belief. As Kierkegaard says, "knowledge of the present does not confer necessity upon it".

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't live our lives without beliefs (or faith).
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 05:14 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
Hume doesn't deny that we make future decisions and that we can go on our lives doing it. That's his psychological solution of custom and belief. But it is a big obstacle on how to obtain truth and knowledge. As Hume admits, we are entirely capable of holding contradictary beliefs and this is not grounds for knowledge.

The billiard balls suddenly diverging from a straight line might be a bit insipid; but consider this example: A pig is on farm and everyday the farmer comes out to feed and care for the pig. This pig let's say after several weeks for being cared for and fed, comes to the custom and belief that he will be always be cared for and fed. But yet one day, the farmer comes out and breaks his neck instead.

Hume would say that pig did NOT have knowledge, but merely beliefs and false ones at that. Now when it comes to believing things about future, are we that much different from the pig? Hume's point is that we can never have knowledge of anything of the future, only belief. As Kierkegaard says, "knowledge of the present does not confer necessity upon it".

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't live our lives without beliefs (or faith).


Thanks for this point. You helped me crank out another page, because I was missing this major point on psychology and epistemology.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 10:16 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:

The billiard balls suddenly diverging from a straight line might be a bit insipid; but consider this example: A pig is on farm and everyday the farmer comes out to feed and care for the pig. This pig let's say after several weeks for being cared for and fed, comes to the custom and belief that he will be always be cared for and fed. But yet one day, the farmer comes out and breaks his neck instead.





It seems to me that it would be hard for the farmer to break the neck of a pig. Does a pig even have a neck, and if it does, it would be pretty hard to break it.
The original example (in Bertrand Russell's book, "The Problems of Philosophy") was that of a chicken, and the farmer wrung the chicken's neck.
Just keeping things straight.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Tue 5 May, 2009 10:18 pm
@Theaetetus,
LOL, I knew it was some kind of farm animal. Besides, Pork, Ham, Bacon...mmm.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 6 May, 2009 08:14 am
@Theaetetus,
.....and swine flu!
 
zicogja421
 
Reply Thu 7 May, 2009 10:37 am
@Theaetetus,
Related to what Victor said about epistemology, you might want to discuss the possible implications that the rule of induction has on science particularly (e.g., laws of nature).
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 02:03 pm
@Theaetetus,
I turned in the paper, and I was quite happy with it considering how much other stuff has been weighing down my mind. Maybe I will post the paper for anyone that cares to read it. I am going to wait until the TA is done grading it though so I don't have to deal with any sort of plagiarism accusations that may arise if she checks the web.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Philosophy 101
  3. » Hume's skeptical problem of induction
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 03/02/2024 at 06:25:17