Some inductive arguments that are taken seriously are based on observations about society/culture that cannot be objectively confirmed and do not produce any predictions. Does that make them less cogent?

The example I'm thinking of is from art. Suppose we agree that modernism in general imploded, often or always due to conceptualism. It happened in architecture, sculpture, painting, etc.

By extension, one might say something similar of Marxism.

Are we then rationally justified to agree that every modernism has already imploded, at least every art which has had a significant conceptualist moment, such as (arguably) poetry has? Especially if it is agreed that there can be no empirical evidence to prove it, and there is and arguably never will be a consensus on when it will (or has) occurred.

  • How is "modernism in general imploded, therefore, every modernism in particular imploded" inductive? And "if we agree" it makes no difference whether this results from empirical evidence is or not. The argument is aimed at those who accept whatever the evidence might be anyway.
    – Conifold
    Jun 20, 2019 at 21:26
  • cos by 'in general' i mean most modernisms @Conifold
    – user38026
    Jun 20, 2019 at 21:28
  • 1
    Put it into the post instead of the comments, and spell out the supposed argument better than you spelled "because".
    – Conifold
    Jun 20, 2019 at 21:31
  • Thank you for your comment and patience @Conifold
    – user38026
    Jun 20, 2019 at 21:37
  • Broadly shared judgments can be prima facie expected to pick up on something real, even if, at present, we have no way of confirming them "objectively". Of course, inductive conclusions are even less good than the evidence they are based on. But, to the extent that we take the implosion judgments at face value, along with judgments of relevant similarity between different parts of modernism, it is rational to tentatively generalize. Moreover, it is predictive in the same sense, the prediction is that the other parts will be (are) broadly judged as imploded as well.
    – Conifold
    Jun 21, 2019 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


Isn't this notion of 'implosion' kind of modernist? If I am hearing you right, it looks at the standards of modernism and modernism's inability to meet them and judges modernism by its own standards as a failure. But why accept those standards as the right ones by which to judge modernism?

Modernisms in general have done wonderful things for us, and will continue to do so. Contrary to the bias of modernism itself, an approach does not have to be either rigorously true or worthless. And modernism can coexist with its competitors and retain its value.

In fact, despite having failed, modernism is still so healthy that we are not really able to truly escape it. In fact your question doesn't escape it. The idea of an inductive argument that has actual effects relies upon just the kind of essentialism endemic to modernism.

Essential modernism does not exist, so things 'with the essence of modernism' do not have to do anything in particular.

But in general, no matter how well-founded it seems to be, you can't assume your rule creates events, provable or not. Rules don't do that, because they aren't universal laws of nature. The idea of that kind of rule has already 'imploded'.

I am not sure what that has to do with the notion of responding. Trends are real. They are worth looking for. If you have noted a trend, you don't have to look for instances, but it is reasonable. There are likely to be exceptions because universal laws of nature basically are not a thing. But that does not mean you have to argue with the trend, either. Neither of these things is obligatory, whether or not the trend is real or whether it has a traceable cause.

  • I upvoted because I more or less agree, or accept it is a reasonable elaboration of a popular view. Thanks
    – user38026
    Jun 21, 2019 at 4:21
  • do you think that pointing out the unusual lack of certainty is a viable counter argument to someone claiming that modernism is unequivocally completely over? i was called a fanatic for doing so, and compared to climate skeptics and holocaust deniers... which is juvenile and annoying. but what argument is there internal to theirs?
    – user38026
    Jun 23, 2019 at 6:10
  • The existence of the concept of engineering is an argument against someone claiming that modernism is unequivocally, completely over. We still have dominant metanarratives that are producing good results, and we don't see them disappearing.
    – user9166
    Jun 23, 2019 at 19:06
  • I realize you are talking mostly about art, but from a certain philosophical direction modernism is all of one piece, the collapse of modernism, for that basic premise has to do with the crises in logic and physics. But to what degree have mathematics and physics actually given up on modernism? They have conceded a little territory at the edges of human insight to social and psychological construction, but they are still essentially modernism enterprises. That won't change essentially, as I see it. So it may be that the two sides here are not talking about the same question.
    – user9166
    Jun 23, 2019 at 19:53
  • A rigid internal 'fundamentalist' modernism may have collapsed, in that it does not meet its own standards, and is incomplete. But nothing else meets modernism's standards, which is what you are judging by, anyway. And once you have it, it is embedded in your conceptual frame. It is not going away. And it surely is not going away by simply doing away with its body and consorting with its ghost. Conceptualism remains a form of modernism: the idea that universals are mental constructs is a universal, and it presumes a very modern notion of the mental. (Quantum physics is still physics...)
    – user9166
    Jun 23, 2019 at 20:57

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