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Suppose someone genuinely believes that they do not use induction, and for that reason press the big red button on the nuclear football, out of fun. One needs induction to know that it will blow something up after all. Are they to blame?

My answer is yes, we should be credited with what we keep doing. There is no epistemic virtue in the belief that every inductive inference should be ignored. Indeed, one does not do so in practice, so the ideal of doing so is not consistently applied in their beliefs, philosophical or (when reflecting on it) mundane. I suppose one may be so plastic as to only believe the testimony of (apparent) friends (nuclear football goes boom, btw), but they cannot deduce anyone is their friend, let alone that they should always believe them, so that's unjustified also.

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    If you reject induction, you'd probably have bigger problems, because there'd be no reason to think that eating food would satisfy your hunger or that drinking water would satisfy your thirst. Anyone who actually rejects induction wouldn't be able to function with any degree of autonomy in the world.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 13 at 1:52
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    In the exemple you give, I can't say if not believing in induction would make you morally blamable, but it certainly makes you extremely dangerous. We would be fully justified in not letting you near anything dangerous, let alone weapons, including nuclear ones.
    – armand
    Commented May 13 at 1:59
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    Who says they don't use induction? That sounds like a strawman (which would not be a great basis for a question). Opinions on induction that I've heard vary from (1) it's a "brute fact" (*barf*), (2) it's just an unjustified thing we accept, or (3) it's justified through means outside of the things that people say it cannot be justified by. None of those involve rejecting induction.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented May 13 at 2:04
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    Just because belief in induction is irrational does not mean that it is unjustified. Hume did not think so. After arguing at length that induction cannot be justified rationally, he concluded:"As nature has taught us the use of our limbs, without giving us the knowledge of the muscles and nerves by which they are actuated; so she has implanted in us an instinct, which carries forward the thought in a correspondent course to that which she has established among external objects." So Hume agrees, one should absolutely be blamed for ignoring nature's lore of induction.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 13 at 4:29
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    @andrós Induction is not irrational. It is a useful heuristic for science and for decisions in daily life. But induction cannot be logically deduced.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented May 13 at 6:26

3 Answers 3

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Let's say I cannot fathom that doing X means Y happens, I also cannot believe doing X means Y not happening. This kind of contradictory thinking system would either mean a human is irrational, or it would be unable to act, as all actions would have no meaning to them. It would be the epitome of absurdism.

Answering the question given the previous statements, for the person acting with no inductive thinking, accountability is futile as he will not understand the accountability comes from his actions, another instance of inductive thinking. Holding him accountable for his actions might serve a practical purpose of keeping him away from acting in ways that might hurt anyone, including himself, but morally speaking, he will not change as he will not comprehend.

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What is the repeated mistake?

The premise behind this question is an example of a repeated mistake. The mistake is the presumption that rationalism, and the principle of sufficient reason, is the only valid way to do epistemology.

However, metaphysics has identified three possible ways that we can do epistemology:

  • Rationalism, thru the PSR
  • Intuitionism, thru direct knowledge
  • Indirect realism thru inductive inference.

Claims that rationalism is the only path to knowledge are in direct conflict with the guidelines of metaphysical epistemology.

Problems for rationalism

Further highlighting that this is a mistake, one should ask how rationalism’s supposed solo validity was established? Was it rationally proven? No effort to do so will ever be successful. Rationalism requires agreed upon premises and methodology, neither of which can ever BE proven. Rationalism, itself, therefore fails its own criteria, and does not pass the PSR.

Is rationalism fixable by asserting direct intuitive knowledge of unimpeachable premises and of logic?

The short answer to the above is no. Even Descartes’ effort to come up with unimpeachable premises has been quibbled over ever since. And our intuitive logic has lots of errors in it, and self critique of our intuitions is how we got to classical logic. Subsequent reasoning by logicians has shown an infinity of possible logics. So we cannot validly “intuit” one.

Does empiricism also fail rationalism and the PSR?

Yes. We have known that empiricism is not rationally justified fo pretty much forever. Complaints that it is irrational, are just echoing millennia of history, in ignorance.

As empiricism WORKS, it is valid for producing knowledge. And as rationalism fails its own standards(as does intuition) empiricisms pragmatic rather than the rational, OR intuitive standard for knowledge is the only self consistent one we have.

So, tell your theoretical rationalist disputant to stop making this longstanding mistake

It is time for them to embrace pragmatism and uncertainty, and their alternative is self refuted.

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Ultimately, induction is irrational and can be proven as such via very simple proofs. Of course, such proofs, or even the complete argument, would have to follow the literal definition of deduction in order to avoid induction. We could even try and use abduction; however, this method proves to be a sort of hybrid between deduction and induction. Abduction is perhaps best known as "maybe" reasoning, which truly is only beneficial to "get the gears turning". It can also be fun in the expression of humor when one knows deductively the answer yet uses abduction to "poke fun" at oneself, a situation or even the one that is genuinely abducting or inducting.

To start out, let's look at the definitions of induction, deduction and even abduction via Merriam Websters Dictionary Site:

Deductive Reasoning: The process of reasoning from one or more premises (statements) to reach a logical conclusion. In short, if all the premises are true, then it is logical to conclude that the conclusion reached is also true.

Inductive Reasoning: A method of reasoning that involves possibility rather than considered facts. Specifically, it is an inference of a generalized conclusion via unique variances.

Abductive Reasoning: Using information that is known, thus being willing to entertain the idea of a fact, while putting forth a possible conclusion given what is known and what is not. Perhaps best understood as a hypothesis.

It should be noted that these definitions are summaries of what is available via this link:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/grammar/deduction-vs-induction-vs-abduction

In fact, I've used those definitions in my first book to argue for deduction over induction and even abduction. Such lengthy discussion is not for here, however.

Within those definitions, you'll notice that I have used possibility for induction and abduction, whereas the link cites probability. I've changed this for the following reasons:

  1. Possibility is defined as "the condition or fact of being possible". This is an interesting definition, as we see possible things do not require fact, rather, pure speculation, being open to capacity or even imagination. The naive quote "anything is possible" is perhaps the best example of how fact can be completely absent within possibility. If the possibility of "anything is possible" can be argued as known, we would be claiming that there would be no end to the expression of variation via existence, or at the least that there would be no factual reason to not express in specific variations. I find this to be disastrous in regard to the preservation of morals and ethics.

  2. Probability is defined as the extent to which something is probable, perhaps being best measured via a high, low, neutral or even good, bad neutral. A three-point linear graph that allows for "in-betweens" yet is defined via the three points themselves. Probability takes known facts and allows for deducements to be made regarding said facts. This aids in the reasoning process, so long as we are trying to avoid hypotheticals. Even if we are simply doing something such as "crunching numbers", we can still deduce our conclusions via knowing what the numbers imply. If we are to argue that we cannot know what the numbers imply, something simple being 2+2 can = 5 because we don't know enough about the identity of 5, then we could entertain an inductive and even abductive view in something such as mathematics. Unfortunately, this would prove to be disastrous as we would never truly be able to deduce when the proper stopping point has occurred. I truly understand this probability as "identity politics plaguing facts", and in fact there have already been claims via postmodernist ideologues that claim such notions are the future of mathematics.

  3. Since probability requires an understanding of probable, we see that probable is defined as likely to be the case or happen. This opens us up to the crucial aspect of likelihood, which can be meaningless via induction as the likelihood of anything happening is not reasonable. A classic example is the likelihood that you have the same preference for foods as someone else. There need not be opinion when understanding that objectively our taste buds can become accustomed to different tastes. Thus, specific choices in food allow for the experience to be good, bad or neutral (meh). Likelihood via deduction is almost foolproof, for the facts themselves must be proven true in order for a true conclusion to be reached. This lets us understand the conclusions universally.

Having laid out my reasoning, lets step back to the definitions and realize that deduction requires facts, it requires true premises, and it thus grants a true conclusion. Induction requires a sliver of this at best, for it is true via induction, a conclusion can be true, while at least one of the premises is false. The issue with this is that it is an attempt to "reverse engineer" genuine reason, allowing for individuals that are merely making imaginative guesses to appear reasonable. This is truly the required "form of reasoning" if we are to argue that fantasy is reality. I like to say, the dog is not a cat, we can deduce this via reasoning, yet, if I was "feeling frisky" the cat is a dog, so long as I choose to induce it. Since the method of "reasoning" is opinion based, there is not much anyone can do to shake me of my opinion, even if I am merely basking within ignorance.

We can go even further to understand that induction is the utmost threat to moral and ethical law, if we can factually agree that such a thing exists. It implies that all laws be upheld on a case-by-case basis, which sure, is how the legal system mainly operates, yet the issue is that we never know if we're stepping into a courtroom where the jury or even judge simply "had a bad day". While they did take an oath, if that individual's opinion is that oaths are meaningless, then the oath taken means nothing and all potential false perceptions can be used in regard to making the decision about how to proceed in the matter.

To tie this back to your initial question about accountability for those that induce and repeatedly make the same mistakes, yes, they must be held accountable, and they must be called out for being irrational. When such a thing is done, the counter argument is typically along the lines of "who are you to say I'm irrational, just respect my opinion". Such a claim is ultimately hilarious when attempting to deal with facts, truly.

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  • "induction is irrational/is the utmost threat to moral and ethical law" is completely wrong, completely nonsensical, and completely the opposite of anything moral: indeed, not even Hume would have said that much... See e.g. here for a comparison web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/williams.pdf Commented May 15 at 9:43
  • "To dispute the rational validity of induction, however, is to deny that reason and good-will have a purchase on reality, to deny mind’s hope of acclimating itself to any world whatever, natural or supernatural." I ultimately hold a metaphysical viewpoint that builds the foundation for all of my philosophical views. It is one that allows for certain universal knowledge to exist, while understanding that opinions and inductions get in the way of such a thing. I can go deeper if you would like. Hope is not needed for a moral world, this is certain. Commented May 16 at 2:42
  • "Even in their specialties, furthermore, nemesis dogs them, for as physics, biology, or psychology advances, and the relation between hypotheses and evidence becomes more subtle and remote, the sheer mass and quality of evidence becomes less important, and the logical laws of evidence, the more delicate and derivative principles of induction, become much more important." Hilarious formulation of words. I will simply refer you to the literal definition of induction. Science is supposed to be deductive. If not, then why treat it as a religion? Which we gladly do now in the present moment. Commented May 16 at 2:47
  • Furthermore, I see that Donald Cary Williams ultimate inductive defense is perhaps what is crucially wrong with terrible fields such as psychology. Neuroscience is better off, yet psychology is a social science that aims to be tgruly scientific via exercising induction to the utmost extent. A prime example is to use the example that has been used via williams, this according to a brief background search regarding him: If there is a sample population that shows roughly 48% of individuals vote democrat, then it is probable to say 48% of individuals are democrat. This is such a terrible way... Commented May 16 at 2:51
  • To TRY and be reasonable via statistics. a survey of 10,000 people, even of different demographics, is not near enough to understand the views of over a million individuals, let alone more. Commented May 16 at 2:52

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