Using the past as a guide to the
Why is this a problem in
• David Hume – flagged this up in Treatise
Concerning Human Nature
• Problem – the future is not available to
sensory perception and therefore it cannot
• Sensory perception allows empirical /
scientific testing to provide empirical
knowledge. Hume was an empiricist.
Hume asked – Why do we accept
1. Such knowledge has no empirical basis
and is therefore unreliable. It should
never be trusted. It is not knowledge.
2. We think it is knowledge because of
‘Custom and Habit’. We are so used to
things occurring in particular ways that
we believe they will always occur in such
Karl Popper –Objective Knowledge
Splits the problem into 2
1. Psychological Question – How is it
possible for us to form such beliefs in the
2. Epistemological Question – Can such
beliefs ever be justified?
He evaluates these 2 questions by
• No they can never be justified but if
something has occurred time without
number then you can use this knowledge
until you falsify it.
• Falsification: If any piece of knowledge
fails to be true even once it must be
disregarded. It is not truth. It has no
Like Popper and Hume calls himself an
Decided that you could retain beliefs which
worked and that hung together in a
Coherent Belief System.
But remember we once thought it true that
the world was flat! People died for daring
to say otherwise.
A J Ayer – Language, Truth and
Ayer says Induction is a problem that cannot
be solved. He is correct in this.
He goes further and says because there can
be no answer it is meaningless to question
induction. He says it is as bad as stating
that your body is pointed in the direction of
its own ignorance!
Do we actually need Induction?
• Science uses Induction all the time to
• We need Induction all the time to move
forward in our lives with any degree of
confidence – we trust natural laws – the
pavement is solid beneath our feet.
• Therefore to claim to be an empiricist and
say that Induction is of no use is
• To be a lay person and say that Induction
is no use would leave you unable to trust
yourself to move forward in any direction
or sphere of your life.
• Induction is a useful tool which should not
be disregarded because it cannot be
proven 100% of the time.
• Remember to begin with a definition of
• David Hume has to be mentioned first and
then you have a choice unless the
question stipulates about whom you write.
• You should be able to state the title of their
books and give a quote. There is no
excuse on this as it is in your notes.
• Remember to evaluate each philosopher
against his own opinion – where are the
holes in his argument?
• Then say why we need induction and
perhaps decide that only Popper truly
suggests a way in which we can move
• Conclusion – has to agree that Induction is
a problem but not one that should hold us
back for the reasons you have given
Possible examples – real or
• We thought all swans were white until
someone went to Perth in Australia and
saw black ones.
• Nelson Goodman – Grue (all emeralds
found are green but after a particular year
(set in the future) – all emeralds found will
be blue, therefore we should now refer to
all possible as well as real ones as Grue.)