I am looking for a pedagogical outline of the inductive theory of knowledge. Something along the lines of a level textbook (graduate or undergraduate) reference rather than references to classic texts.

I am aware that there are many different models of induction (Bacon, Mill etc.) but they all roughly share the features of making observations and then (somehow) generalising them. In particular, I am interested in an explanation (from the inductivist point of view) of how scientific knowledge (such as Newtonian physics or relativity) can come from induction as this is something I am struggling to understand.

EDIT: People seem to be interpreting this question as 'Give me your opinions on whether inductive theories of knowledge are correct'. This is not the question. The question is a reference request, so answers should include a reference which explains inductive theories of knowledge.

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    A good start would be to look at some articles in the Stanford Encyclopedia. There is an article on inductive logic, which describes many of the traditional approaches. In modern treatments, this subject area is often referred to as confirmation theory, and there is a closely related field of enquiry called formal epistemology.
    – Bumble
    Nov 23, 2023 at 13:28
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    to add to @Bumble 's google, have you tried google books and the 'Handbook of the History of Logic: Inductive logic'? i haven't, but there's nothing stopping you. i do sometimes google book phrases and buy the book, and it works very well, almost as well as a tailored reading list
    – user67675
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:58

2 Answers 2

  1. I’m sceptical that scientific knowledge can come from induction, at all.

    Induction may serve as a heuristic. But induction - to conclude from finitely-many cases to infinitely many cases, or to conclude from past experience to future experience – is not a valid logical argument. Other than deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning lacks certainty.

  2. Furthermore, I also doubt that the basic ideas of Newtonian physics or Einstein’s theories of relativity were triggered from induction.

    • In the case of Newtons theory of gravity: The steps from free falling bodies on the earth to the mathematical law of gravitational attraction cannot be achieved by stepwise generalisation. Also Newtons idea, to apply the law of gravitation to celestial mechanics has no intermediate experimental steps.
    • Alike the principle of the constancy of the velocity of light and the canceling of the concept of global simultaneity in the Special Theory of Relativity has no precedent inductive steps at all. The same holds for the idea of the General Theory of Relativity to incorporate gravity into the metric of spacetime. The idea has no observational precendents.
  • Thank you, I appreciate that you have taken the time to write this answer. However, you have just given me your opinion and not answered the question. I asked for a reference on inductive theories of science and your answer does not provide one. For what its worth, I share your scepticism that scientific knowledge can come from induction. This is why I am asking for a reference which explains this view so that I can understand it better.
    – asph
    Nov 23, 2023 at 11:48
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    @asph In his book Objective knowledge amazon.de/-/en/Karl-Raimund-Popper/dp/0198750242 Popper argues against the method of induction as an attempt to gain knowledge in his first chapter about conjectural knowledge "My solution of the induction problem"
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 23, 2023 at 13:54
  • @JoWehler Science is an induction-deduction cycle in which you can enter both with induction (observation) as well as with deduction (evolving of existing theories) though what ultimately makes it science rather than math or natural philosophy is whether it works in real life, so experiments, observations and induction from that. The rest is built upon that and only really serves as a crutch in the sense of helping us understand the data. If a great theory turns out to be incompatible with reality then it's not more knowledge than science fiction. And yes this entails the problem of induction
    – haxor789
    Nov 23, 2023 at 15:29

By focusing only in the way scientific knowledge is obtained and specifically in our times, I can't see how someone can deviate far from @Jo Wehler's sceptical approach towards inductive reasoning regarding science and especially physics.

I see that science and especially physics take a very practical approach towards knowledge. The main focus is in modelling the observations, in mathematical constructs that are in line with the measurements. You can't really say that induction is included in this process, as the theory, the model, is not a generalization, it's in fact a perfect fit of the observations.

On the other hand, the explanation, the interpretation, or if you prefer the ontological representation, is a totally different thing.

  • I appreciate you have taken time to write this, but in the question I am asking for a reference which explains inductive theories of knowledge. I am not asking for people to share their opinions on whether such theories are correct.
    – asph
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:39
  • @asph, perhaps then, you are interested in Greek philosophers way of thinking: see Aristotle and especially teleological reasoning and explore the concept of "logos". Nov 23, 2023 at 22:43
  • @asph, perhaps this may be of help: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/105009/… Nov 23, 2023 at 22:46
  • I appreciate that you are trying to help but nothing you have said addresses my question. I am familiar with Aristotle. I specifically asked for a pedagogical reference and not references to classic texts (I think Aristotle counts as 'classic'). The link to your other stackexchange answer is not about induction so also doesn't help.
    – asph
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:54

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