Full Text

28. Induction and the Uniformity of Nature


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics nature , science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00031.x


The problem of induction is one of the oldest, and one of the most intractable, of philosophical problems. Possibly its clearest formulation occurs in a celebrated discussion by David Hume, where it is posed as the question of whether there is anything “ in any object, considered in itself, which can afford us a reason for drawing a conclusion beyond it. ” Hume's answer, famously, is that there is not: “ we have no reason to draw any inference concerning any object beyond those of which we have had experience ,” even after the observation of their “frequent or constant conjunction” (1739, bk 1, pt III. sec. XII; italics original). However extensive the observational evidence, there is, according to Hume, no legitimate inference to the truth or even the probability of any hypothesis whose logical content transcends that evidence; what today we call ampliative , or inductive , inference is for Hume no species of reasoning at all, merely a psychological propensity (see hume ). If this is true, then science stands on no surer evidential foundation than the crudest superstition. The uncongenial nature of this conclusion prompted generations of philosophers to try to find some flaw in his reasoning. This has proved far from easy, and many have reluctantly concluded that it cannot be successfully rebutted. First. Hume points out, extrapolations from experience, in whatever way they ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top