What is the contemporary opinion on the problem of induction? It seems that no justification can be given, according to the SEP and an Oxford lecturer. It seems that the SEP does not provide any justification that does not rely on appealing to faith of one sort or another, and the Oxford lecturer says, "...the ultimate principles of science are ones that we cannot hope to base on pure reason." (from 18:40 - 19:10 in the video)

Does this mean that most philosophers reject induction as a proper justification for knowledge? This seems to be a rather extreme conclusion, but I have difficulty seeing how we can avoid this. Is the only option to declare that rationality itself requires induction? This does not seem to be a very satisfying solution.

Question: What is the contemporary status of the problem of induction? Is it considered a true problem in epistemology? Is it dismissed as not important pragmatically? Or something else entirely?

  • The linked SEP article already gives "the contemporary opinion on the problem of induction". Along with proposed solutions and dissolutions, which do not amount to most philosophers "rejecting induction". What many philosophers do reject is the foundationalist conception of knowledge justification that leads to this "problem" in the first place.
    – Conifold
    Aug 20, 2019 at 0:55

1 Answer 1


The state of the debate is that most philosophers are what David Deutsch described accurately as crypto-inductivists in "The Fabric of Reality" Chapter 7. They hold that induction is impossible but think that solving the problem of induction is necessary. They explicitly reject Popper's solution to the problem of induction, which is to reject induction and justification and say that knowledge is created by guesses controlled by criticism.

For example, from the SEP entry you cited:

Popper’s account appears to be incomplete in an important way. There are always many hypotheses which have not yet been refuted by the evidence, and these may contradict one another. According to the strictly deductive framework, since none are yet falsified, they are all on an equal footing. Yet, scientists will typically want to say that one is better supported by the evidence than the others. We seem to need more than just deductive reasoning to support practical decision-making (Salmon 1981). Popper did indeed appeal to a notion of one hypothesis being better or worse “corroborated” by the evidence. But arguably, this took him away from a strictly deductive view of science. It appears doubtful then that pure deductivism can give an adequate account of scientific method.

So the SEP holds that support is necessary for practical decision making: evidence must show an idea is true or probably or probably true or good or whatever. This idea is just a variant of inductivism although the SEP doesn't call it that. Popper's solution to that problem was that we decide what idea to use by critical discussion: by guessing solutions and criticising them. For a more detailed discussion see "Objective Knowledge" Chapter 1 by Popper and chapters 3 and 7 of "The Fabric of Reality" by Deutsch. You can discuss these ideas at the Fallible ideas discussion group if you're interested.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .