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What skeptical arguments do not use induction? I haven't yet found anything which says these do not exist, so doubt that they don't. But I'm still intrigued, as SEP says that

[a] way to motivate Academic Skepticism and to clearly distinguish it from ordinary incredulity is to trace the way in which Descartes gradually expanded the realm of what was doubtful (and hence not worthy of assent) in the “First Meditation.”[7] Descartes begins by noting that the senses have deceived him on some occasions and, in the voice of his skeptical interlocutor, he conjectures that it is never prudent to trust what occasionally misleads

Zeno may count.

But I'm especially interested in Einstein's demarcation of induction and deduction in physics. To be specific, would his "methodical, inductive" researcher alone be able to be a skeptic, in the everyday sense of proving his disbelief?

  • Zeno's paradox is a good one, thanks. i'll think that through @jobermark – user25714 Jun 21 '17 at 16:42
  • If pre-Academics qualify, I will just move that to an answer. – jobermark Jun 21 '17 at 16:44
  • the edit has a trivial answer, but thanks for helping me generate it! – user25714 Jun 22 '17 at 20:44
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Even before Academic Philosophy got started, the Eleatics motivated distrust of the senses and the mind directly through contradiction.

Zeno's paradox calls up two clear intuitions: the observation of motion, and the divisibility of space and time. The resulting conflict motivates interrogating intuition more closely.

Parmenides paradoxes of one and many do the same thing -- they point out that what comes naturally to us conceptually is in some way incomplete.

This has less to do with induction, because they don't come at this with many cases, they try to undermine something so basic that it directly motivates doubt of perception or intuition.


The more specific question is, to some degree not related. Einstein is proposing something that Popper advocates more clearly -- that scientific progress is about conflicts between theories, and not really about observation.

Even science that is observational is really translation of data into the terms of a theory one espouses. Otherwise it loses access to scientifically valid definitions. Your terms are held up by a theory that provides a reason your definitions are clear enough to use. Just plain words don't cut it, when it comes to observing scientifically, or scientific vocabulary would not be the sprawling mass of fussy jargon that it is.

By this notion of theory, a skeptic, in the sense of the Academics, or even Descartes, cannot really do science. He has to believe things, and even jump to conclusions, in order to make statements clear enough to contradict.

He needs to know when his position has been falsified, so he cannot be inflexibly adherent. But he needs to adopt a position in every case.

  • quick question if i may? can a purely deductive argument incorporate the evidence of the senses (a posteriori right?) even if the conclusion is skeptical? – user25714 Jun 21 '17 at 17:03
  • As premises. So like in Zeno's case, this cannot be a logical contradiction, just a conflict between premises. One of the two observed facts is false, but the logic can't tell you which. – jobermark Jun 21 '17 at 17:23
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    He takes from intuition that space is arbitrarily divisible, and various other intuitions about comparison, etc. Taking his understanding of space as premises, he deduces things can't move. But there is no rigorous way of validating premises. Data has to come from somewhere, and the form of the premises can always be wrong. – jobermark Jun 21 '17 at 17:36
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    No, I will just edit on an answer to the second question. – jobermark Jun 22 '17 at 20:09
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    Hypothesis testing is not induction. So we do not, in theory, require induction for disbelief. In fact, hypothesis testing is not possible in a posture of absolute disbelief, only when one actually believes something different. – jobermark Jun 22 '17 at 20:45
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From the same article by Einstein

Thus, a theory can very well be found to be incorrect if there is a logical error in its deduction, or found to be off the mark if a fact is not in consonance with one of its conclusions.

The virtuous "researcher" can be "found to be incorrect" and in that sense "be a skeptic" (my term above), about some theory.

Also, this can be shown via analysis of "its deduction", which suggests to me that a scientific "skeptic" may well be working without the opposing "methodical, inductive way".

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