# What Induction is According to David Hume

Words: 944 |

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Published: Sep 20, 2018

Published: Sep 20, 2018

In this paper I shall briefly define what induction is and attempt to explain David Hume’s problem of induction through examining the thre most common problems of induction, which are, the problem of the uniformity of nature, the problem of cause-and-effect reasoning and the problem of reliance upon past experience.Induction as proposed by Bacon is defined as “a picture of scientific reasoning and practice according to which scientists arrive at explanatory theories by making observations and formulating generalizations on the basis of their specific observations” (Scott & Mungwini, 2015:42).

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Induction is considered a specific form of reasoning that takes us beyond the limits of existing evidence to conclusions about the unknown. The premises an inductive argument indicate some degree of support to the conclusion, but do necessarily entail the conclusion. The conclusion of an inductive argument is regarded as a hypothesis because the conclusion is said follow with probability. When we argue inductively, we infer something beyond the contents of the premises; hence this is referred to as the inductive leap. Inductive reasoning moves from specific cases and observations to more general underlying principles and hypothesis that explain them, for example, Einstein’s theory of relativity. Inductive reasoning is more open-ended and explanatory than deductive reasoning.Now David Hume’s problem of induction called into question a fallacy in which all science is based as brought up in the eighteenth century. It is the question, why does past experiences give us any reason at all to think that future experiences will be in a particular way, such as the laws of nature that appear to be more or less constant and does induction lead to knowledge and what is the justification for it?

Let’s consider the problem of the uniformity of nature. According to David Hume, induction is an unjustified form of reasoning for the following reason; one believes that inductions are good because nature is uniform in some deep respect. For instance, one induces all ravens are black from a small sample of black ravens because there is regularity of blackness among the ravens, which is a particular uniformity in nature. However, why suppose that there is a regularity of blackness among the ravens?, what justifies this assumption?. Hume asserts that one knows that nature is uniform either deductively or inductively, however, one admittedly cannot deduce this assumption and an attempt to induce the assumption only makes the justification of induction circular. Thus induction is an unjustified form of reasoning and as such, this is what makes induction a problem.Considering the cause-and-effect problem, Hume puts forward the notion that we do not know of the relations between distinct matters of fact by reason alone, as such, “all reasoning concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause-and-effect” (Allhoff, Kelly & McGrew, 2009:220).

He asserts that “…as a general proposition, which admits of no exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance, attained by reasoning a priori, but arises entirely from experience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with each other. Let an object be presented to a man of ever so strong natural reason and abilities; if that object be entirely new to him, he will not be able to, by the most accurate examination of its sensible qualities, to discover any of its causes or effects” (Allhoff, Kelly & McGrew, 2009:221).Furthermore, looking into the problem of reliance upon past experience, inductive inference assumes that the past acts as a guide to the future, for example, if in the past it has rained 60% of the time given a conjunction of atmospheric condition arose, then it will probably rain 60% of the time in the future given a conjunction of similar conditions arises. But what justifies this?.

Hume suggested two possible justifications, but rejected them both: the first justification states that, as a matter of logical necessity, the future must resemble past, but Hume notes that we cannot conceive an uncertain world because the future has nothing to do with the past. The justification, more modestly, appeals to the past succession of induction-it has worked in the past, so it will probably work in the future, but Hume points out, this justification uses circular reasoning in attempting to justify induction by reiterating it, thus this takes us back to where we started. “Here lies the issue of extrapolating knowledge based on the experience of particular events in the past and applying them to possible future events. Hence, knowledge founded upon past experience that is applied to similar events in the future will be-at most-probable. No projection can be absolute fact” (Scott & Mungwini, 2015:47). Thus it is evident that Hume cannot however see anything beyond contiguity, priority and constant conjunction between cause and effect.

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Summing up the three most problems of induction, we come to the conclusion that there is no rational justification for inductive references and according to some of the points put forward by Hume, we can argue that Bacon was in fact wrong to assume that we can derive universal principles from the basis of specific observations. We also see that to justify induction and to prove that it is rational; one needs to be able to show that on specific events induction will take us from the truth to falsehood, as in the case with black ravens, yet in the long run, induction will get us nearer to the truth. Thus, we would be justified in our inductive inferences if we were justified in believing in the uniformity of nature, but we cannot be justified in the latter, since the uniformity of nature in knowable neither by reason nor by experience, as such, the problem of induction remains.

This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

## Cite this Essay

What Induction is According to David Hume. (2018, September 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 9, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-induction-is-according-to-david-hume/
“What Induction is According to David Hume.” GradesFixer, 04 Sept. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-induction-is-according-to-david-hume/
What Induction is According to David Hume. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-induction-is-according-to-david-hume/> [Accessed 9 Sept. 2024].
What Induction is According to David Hume [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Sept 04 [cited 2024 Sept 9]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-induction-is-according-to-david-hume/
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