Epistemic Merit of Induction

The inductive pattern is generally written as follows:
All n of the observed F’s have been G’s. 
So, all n of unobserved F’s will also (probably) be G’s.
In other words, since all past observations of F’s have been G’s, probably all unobserved instances of F’s are also G’s. As illustrated in the classic example, all observed instances in which a person jumps off a building, this person has moved in the direction of the street. Therefore, any person who will jump off of a building in the future, his body will move towards the street. I should state here that induction is one of the main arguments used against the skeptical hypothesis.
The general argument against induction, as stated by Russell, is that although we may expect all unobserved F’s to be G’s we do not have reason. Induction holds that through observed past experiences, we can infer future, unobserved experiences. However, it must be pointed out that the only reason we have for giving induction any merit is because of induction: since observed past instances of induction reasoning have  worked, we can infer that future, unobserved instances of inductive reasoning will also work. Additionally, induction does not follow from anything we know immediately.
Granted, this is horrible reasoning. Going on, Russell would say that a person who jumps off a building will probably move towards the street, though it is not certain. We all expect the person to move towards the street, though we do not have good reason – since we cannot reason based on experience alone. Russell also asks, in what seems to be a rhetorical question, “Do any number of cases of a law being fulfilled in the past afford evidence that it will be fulfilled in the future?”
These are the two challenges to induction that Edwards addresses. However, the second challenge (“Are there any number of cases of a law being fulfilled in the past afford evidence that it will be fulfilled in the future?”) is most surely won for induction if Edwards can defeat the first challenge: Have we any reason to suppose that all future unobserved F’s will also be G’s? Since I do not think that Edwards’s reply sufficiently answers the first major challenge, I will only focus on his reply to that challenge in this paper.
In addressing the first challenge, Edwards accuses Russell of giving a high redefinition of the word induction: Russell is not using the word induction in the ordinary sense of the term. It is not ordinary to think that, perhaps, if any one of us was to jump off of a building that our bodies may not move towards the street because the only reasoning we have to believe that our bodies will move towards the street is based solely on past observations. Edwards constructs an analogy for his accusation of Russell in which a person states that a physician is a “person who has a medical degree and is capable of curing any conceivable illness in less than two minutes.” The person in Edwards’s analogy further concludes that there are no physicians in New York because no one fulfills these requirements.
I do not see how this is an accurate analogy as to what Russell has actually done in regards to questioning induction. It is a very far-fetched example that deters from the actual worry Russell has. Before we get to this worry, let us reconstruct Edwards’s story to a more accurate analogy of which I can make sense.
Let us say that a witch-doctor healer is explicitly defined as a person who others go to for cures to their ailments. In this example, many people go to a certain widely proclaimed witch-doctor in the Amazon. You, yourself, are sick and wish to seek this witch-doctor. However, upon further examination, you realize that this witch-doctor healer has never been proven to cure any ailments in others.
Though, the stories circulated about the people who visit him say that these people do, indeed, get cured. Upon even further examination, you find that this represents only a fourth of those who have actually seen the witch-doctor. Your worry grows because you know that the cures for the people included in this fourth are not proven. You are pressed to ask, “How is this person considered a witch-doctor healer if it is perhaps unlikely that this person has cured anyone at all?”
Your friend answers you, “A witch-doctor healer is explicitly defined as a person who others go to for cures to their ailments. This does not necessarily mean that the witch-doctor healer actually heals these people.”
“Is it not implied that he actually cures these people?”
“One would think, though that is not necessary.”
Russell would definitely wish that by inductive reasoning, we would have good reasons for the conclusions we reach. Russell would definitely wish that by induction, we could conclude, and take for granted, with good reason that we are not merely dreaming.
Much in the same way, you would wish that a witch-doctor healer actually healed his patients. We should expect that the purpose of induction is to show that we can reliably look upon past experiences to infer upon future experiences of the real-world hypothesis, much like you should expect that the purpose of a witch-doctor healer is to cure others (because a witch-doctor healer who does not cure others is pointless).
However, in both instances, we realize that we have been duped. Russell did not give a high redefinition of induction; Russell asserted what should be reasonably expected from the definition of induction.
Again, Edwards would argue that going against induction would be to go against commonsense. We would be going against commonsense to think about all “absurd” possible situations that follow jumping off of a building:
Perhaps the earth gets hit by a large asteroid the moment you jump, thereby suspending you in the air instead of hurling you towards the street because the earth itself is splitting apart losing its gravitational force. Or maybe our solar system comes across a black hole sucking the earth’s gravitational force and atmosphere where you are, again, found not falling towards earth.
Edwards would definitely assert that the reason that he may possibly not hurl towards the earth after jumping off a building because he may be merely dreaming is not ordinary thinking because dreaming is not an ordinary circumstance.
In the example with the chicken living happily under the care of a farmer, Edwards claims that, if the chicken had any sense, it would know that it would eventually be killed for food. However, I beg to differ that a chicken would have any sense over such higher matters. Just as Russell declares that we are in no better position than the chicken over equivalent higher matters to our states, which is a matter of concern.
Those who oppose the dream argument, attest to the reasoning that we are in an inductively better position than the chicken. We have, at least, observed many past instances that should show that we are indeed living in a real world. Where as the chicken, perhaps, has not observed that other, fellow chickens, have been killed at the hands of the farmer.
However, I think that I could easily reason inductively, within a dream, that I am not merely dreaming. In fact, in a more twisted sense, everything that I expect to happen within a dream does, indeed, happen. Within a dream, I expect the monster to chase me as it has done on countless past observations just as much as I expect to head in the direction of the street were I to decide to jump off of a building now. This goes to show that I am not in an inductively better position to know that I am not merely dreaming than the chicken who does not know that the farmer is going to wring his neck tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *