Peter Posted May 30, 2020 Share Posted May 30, 2020 I don’t remember where I cut and pasted the following from. I can’t say I understand much of it, but if it is of interest, enjoy. Some is from Knowledge without Authority too. (1960). I found the whole thing which is over 15 pages long and so can you. I can't seem to get it to close up much. Peter The Problem of Induction (1953, 1974) Karl Popper There are many ways to present my own non-inductivist point of view. Perhaps the simplest is this. I will try to show that the whole apparatus of induction becomes unnecessary once we admit the general fallibility of human knowledge or, as I like to call it, the conjectural character of human knowledge. Let me point this out first for the best kind of human knowledge we have; that is, for scientific knowledge. I assert that scientific knowledge is essentially conjectural or hypothetical. Take as an example classical Newtonian mechanics. There never was a more successful theory. If repeated observational success could establish a theory, it would have established Newton's theory. Yet Newton's theory was superseded in the field of astronomy by Einstein's theory, and in the atomic field by quantum theory. And almost all physicists think now that Newtonian classical mechanics is no more than a marvelous conjecture, a strangely successful hypothesis, and a staggeringly good approximation to the truth. I can now formulate my central thesis, which is this. Once we fully realize the implications of the conjectural character of human knowledge, then the problem of induction changes its character completely: there is no need any longer to be disturbed by Hume's negative results, since there is no need any longer to ascribe to human knowledge a validity derived from repeated observations. Human knowledge possesses no such validity. On the other hand, we can explain all our achievements in terms of the method of trial and the elimination of error. To put it in a nutshell, our conjectures are our trial balloons, and we test them by criticizing them and by trying to replace them - by trying to show that there can be better or worse conjectures, and that they can be improved upon. The place of the problem of induction is usurped by the problem of the comparative goodness or badness of the rival conjectures or theories that have been proposed. The main barrier to accepting the conjectural character of human knowledge, and to accepting that it contains the solution of the problem of induction, is a doctrine which may be called the commonsense theory of human knowledge or the bucket theory of the human mind. 3 I think very highly of common sense. In fact, I think that all philosophy must start from commonsense views and from their critical examination. For our purposes here I want to distinguish two parts of the commonsense view of the world and draw attention to the fact that they clash with one another. The first is commonsense realism; this is the view that there is a real world, with real people, animals and plants, cars and stars in it. I think that this view is true and immensely important, and I believe that no valid criticism of it has ever been proposed. [See also selection 17 below.] A very different part of the commonsense view of the world is the commonsense theory of knowledge. The problem is the problem of how we get knowledge about the world. The commonsense solution is: by opening our eyes and ears. Our senses are the main if not the only sources of our knowledge of the world. This second view I regard as thoroughly mistaken, and as insufficiently criticized (in spite of Leibniz and Kant). I call it the bucket theory of the mind, because it can be summed up by the diagram overleaf. What allegedly enters the bucket through our senses are the elements, the atoms or molecules, of knowledge. Our knowledge then consists of an accumulation, a digest, or perhaps a synthesis of the elements offered to us by our senses. Both halves of commonsense philosophy, commonsense realism and the commonsense theory of knowledge, were held by Hume; he found, as did Berkeley before him, that there is a clash between them. For the commonsense theory of knowledge is liable to lead to a kind of anti-realism. If knowledge results from sensations, then sensations are the only certain elements of knowledge, and we can have no good reason to believe that anything but sensation exists. Hume, Berkeley, and Leibniz were all believers in a principle of sufficient reason. For Berkeley and Hume the principle took the form: if you do not have sufficient reasons for holding a belief, then this fact is itself a sufficient reason for abandoning this belief. Genuine knowledge consisted for both Berkeley and Hume essentially of belief, backed by sufficient reasons: but this led them to the position that knowledge consists, more or less, of sensations on their own. Thus for these philosophers the real world of common sense does not really exist; according to Hume, even we ourselves do not fully exist. All that exist are sensations, impressions, and memory images. [See also selection 22, section 1, below.] This anti-realistic view can be characterized by various names, but the most usual name seems to be 'idealism'. Hume's idealism appeared to him to be a strict refutation of commonsense realism. But though he felt rationally obliged to regard commonsense realism as a mistake, he himself admitted that he was in practice quite unable to disbelieve in commonsense realism for more than an hour. Thus Hume experienced very strongly the clash between the two parts of commonsense philosophy: realism, and the commonsense theory of knowledge. And although he was aware that emotionally he was unable to give up realism, he looked on this fact as a mere consequence of irrational custom or habit; he was convinced that a consistent adherence to the more critical results of the theory of knowledge ought to make us abandon realism. 4 Fundamentally, Hume's idealism has remained the mainstream of British empiricism. Hume's two problems of induction -- the logical problem and the psychological problem -- can best be presented, I think, against the background of the commonsense theory of induction. This theory is very simple. Since all knowledge is supposed to be the result of past observation, so especially is all expectational knowledge such as that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that all men are bound to die, or that bread nourishes. All this has to be the result of past observation. It is to Hume's undying credit that he dared to challenge the commonsense view of induction, even though he never doubted that it must be largely true. He believed that induction by repetition was logically untenable - that rationally, or logically, no amount of observed instances can have the slightest bearing upon unobserved instances. This is Hume's negative solution of the problem of induction, a solution which I fully endorse. But Hume held, at the same time, that although induction was rationally invalid, it was a psychological fact, and that we all rely on it. Thus Hume's two problems of induction were: (1) The logical problem: Are we rationally justified in reasoning from repeated instances of which we have had experience to instances of which we have had no experience? Hume's unrelenting answer was: No, we are not justified, however great the number of repetitions may be. And he added that it did not make the slightest difference if, in this problem, we ask for the justification not of certain belief, but of probable belief. Instances of which we have had experience do not allow us to reason or argue about the probability of instances of which we have had no experience, any more than to the certainty of such instances. (2) The following psychological question: How is it that nevertheless all reasonable people expect and believe that instances of which they have had no experience will conform to those of which they have had experience? Or in other words, why do we all have expectations, and why do we hold on to them with such great confidence, or such strong belief? Hume's answer to this psychological problem of induction was: Because of 'custom or habit'; or in other words, because of the irrational but irresistible power of the law of association. We are conditioned by repetition; a conditioning mechanism without which, Hume says, we could hardly survive. My own view is that Hume's answer to the logical problem is right and that his answer to the psychological problem is, in spite of its persuasiveness, quite mistaken. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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