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THBT: Hume's induction problem is solvable


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The problem of induction is the philosophical question of what are the justifications, if any, for any growth of knowledge understood in the classic philosophical sense—knowledge that goes beyond a mere collection of observations—highlighting the apparent lack of justification in particular for:

Generalizing about the properties of a class of objects based on some number of observations of particular instances of that class (e.g., the inference that "all swans we have seen are white, and, therefore, all swans are white", before the discovery of black swans) or

Presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (e.g., that the laws of physics will hold as they have always been observed to hold). Hume called this the principle of uniformity of nature.

In inductive reasoning, one makes a series of observations and infers a new claim based on them. For instance, from a series of observations that eating bread always has taste and fulfills our sense of hunger, we come to assume eating the next piece of bread wont leave us hungry and unfulfilled.

Pro: Humes induction problem can likely be solved
Con: Humes induction problem is unlikely to be solved

Round 1
David Hume, Causality and the Principle of A Priori Certainty
Hume contends that there is no evidence from experience to support the necessity of one event occurring after another, and that causality cannot be rationally justified. In other words, denying the alleged necessity of causality does not involve contradiction. However, denying a statement is what establishes its necessity if doing so produces a clear contradiction. Denial of the alleged necessity of causality therefore does not amount to a contradiction because there is no contradiction involved. Causation is not a priori if rejecting the necessity of causality does not involve contradiction. Hume’s claims stem from separating two asserts of knowledge as "relations of ideas"—a priori, meaning that they are certain and it is impossible to imagine them to be false. They tell you about the meaning of words and the knowledge of truths and facts. Following on from this, it would be impossible to know if there were craters on the moon without empirical evidence, as it isn't a contradiction to imagine it not having craters.

By challenging two claims, he illustrates how causality and knowledge are related. Every cause has an effect, so if event A causes event B, then event B will always be the outcome of event A in the future. The following claims cannot be supported by our senses or by our intuition. These assertions, according to Hume, are problematic.

A priori / a posteriori and analytic / synthetic

According to Kant, philosophy and mathematics are examples of disciplines that are a priori, meaning that the true propositions they discover can be figured out by reasoning alone rather than depending on scientific experiments or everyday experience.

A proposition is a priori if it can be deduced from first principles. relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience.

E.g. A square has four sides.

A proposition is a posteriori if it can be justified only based on experience of its objects.

E.g. "My car is white": we need to have perception or some other means of experience of the car to know whether it is indeed white.

A proposition is analytic if it is true based on the mere interrelations of its concepts, i.e., based on their meaning alone.

E.g., "Bachelors are unmarried"; this is true based on the very meaning of the concept "bachelor," for it means an unmarried man.

A proposition is synthetic if it is made true only by something outside its mere concepts, i.e., by the objects of the concepts.

E.g. "7x4 = 28": this is not true based on terms alone. It is synthetic, not analytic, because it requires references to concepts outside of itself for its truth (i.e., its truth is not self-evidently present in the terms of its expression). 28 doesn't necessarily contain 7x4. This is something we discover and then connect to the concept to form knowledge (synthesis). And it is a priori, not a posteriori, because the truth of the statement precedes any experience that conforms to it; it isn't a contingent truth that may or may not be the case dependent upon experience, but a necessary truth that can be safely said to condition all experience.

Therefore mathematics is an example of a synthetic a priori.

Ehyeh's critique of Hume's induction from phenomenology 
I cannot appeal to the outside world or science in this discussion to disprove Hume's problem of induction. Doing so would not solve the premises outlined within the first paragraph which is "that which has a cause can be imagined not to have a cause, therefore is never certain or a priori." An example of this would be the fact that we could imagine a bowling ball going through the pins instead of hitting them. This means it is never certain if one day the bowling ball could go through the pins, as it is never contradictory in imagination ( a priori) as well as the empirical world ( a posteriori).

That means we must move our attention to the mind itself. It's evident cause and effect is not simple a priori, as it appears to be deniable within the material universe. Yet, what I can do is argue its authenticity as a synthetic a priori, not through the material universe but simply through one's own mind. Thoughts within the human mind are contingent upon either two related yet distinct categories of experience:

  • An experience of the senses
  • An experience of thought/reason
Within both of these cases, both are wholly dependant on the law of cause and effect to occur. How can one even begin to have a new thought if not for some change from the previous thought? This therefore highlights thoughts stemming from something, thoughts stem from sensory feedback, creating a closed systematic loop of cause and effect and change in ones own mind. If we did not have this cause and effect within our own mind, the mind would be stagnant, still. It would become impossible to have thoughts after your first thought, which would entail the undeniable fact that if not for cause and effect, we could not exist.

This therefore highlights that for as long as we live, even if we assume material reality itself doesn't exist, We can be sure the law of cause and effect is real and absolute for as long as we continue to live, simply through our own phenomelogical experience of ourselves.

The necessity of cause and effect for experience
Having demonstrated that cause and effect is necessarily absolute for as long as we live, this then highlights the fact that cause and effect for as long as life exists will never wholly cease. It is a synthetic a priori meaning; it is the first consequence of experience. Just as understanding language is not the condition, but rather the consequence, of hearing it, so too is knowing space not the condition, but rather the consequence, of experiencing it. It would be simply impossible for humans and conscious self-aware life to exist if not for cause and effect, as we would never get beyond our first thought.

Following on from this, if the philosophy of materialism is correct (which it very likely is as it fulfils all its necessary conditions for it to be possible), Then the existence of cause and effect, although cannot be known within all circumstances, necessarily exists as an objective property of existence. As it were, without it, there would be no conservation of energy.

There would be no conservation of momentum. Following on from this, it would appear that both in a solipsist sense and a materialist sense, cause and effect must necessarily exist. If this law were flawed in any part of the universe, it would lead to the complete collapse of the system, as it would fly right in the face of the fact that "energy cannot be created nor destroyed". As I will demonstrate, if this were the case, it would destroy the idea that the universe could begin to exist in the first place! as I will demonstrate.
I would argue being comes before time, not time before being. To exist, time requires space, substance, and being. This also answers the question of why there is something and not nothing. For time to exist, something must first exist for time to act on. Therefore, the primordial substance of the universe must necessarily of always existed. This necessitates the fact that the law of cause and effect (motion) has simply always existed up till now. If it did not exist, then nothing could begin to exist.

As outlined in the debate parameters, my burden is to establish the that Hume’s induction problem is likely unsolvable. In order to meet my burden, it is important that the definition of the problem is clearly articulated for the layman, in order to make the voting audience broader.

What is induction?
Induction (in this context) is defined as the method that can be used to make a prediction. Example: The scientific method is an appropriate tool to induce (or predict) an outcome of an experiment.

What is Hume’s problem?
Hume never mentioned the word ‘induction’ in his writing. He simply articulated that past experiences are poor sources of information and should not be readily trusted to predict the future.

Why can the past not be trusted?
Hume was not actually concerned with the past itself, but rather with the observer of the past. He was concerned with the fragile and error-prone human mind, and its ability (or lack thereof) to interpret the past and accurately use it to predict the future.

From the horse’s mouth:”[o]ur reason [to be taken here quite generally, to include the imagination]must be consider'd as a kind of cause, of which truth is the natural effect; but such-a-one as by the irruption of other causes, and by the inconstancy of our mental powers, may frequently be prevented. (Hume THN, 180)”.

Essentially, Hume admitted that Human reasoning is limited by what is knowable and calculable by the human mind and since humans are not omniscient with truly uninterruptable thought processes, we will always miss a piece of the puzzle.

Wait! You mean Hume’s problem is not with causality itself, but rather with the error-prone human mind?
Yes. Arguably, there is only one correct answer to a problem. However, the observer is fallible. He makes mistakes. He forgets a step in the equation, or misreads a number, or miscalculates, or is so limited in his power of observation that the full set of evidence cannot humanly be considered. He still arrives at an answer, but the problem has been corrupted by the observer himself. The mere fact that the observer has limitation is enough to conclude (according to Hume) that the answer is incomplete and cannot be trusted.

That means, whenever we try to solve a problem, we must not only consider the evidence before us, we must also account for ourselves. We are a component of the dataset. We are limited in our ability to interpret the data, we inject our own bias into the problem, and we lack omniscience and true objectivity. We are our own barrier to the truth.
It is therefore logical to conclude that an incomplete evidence set interpreted by an error prone and falsely motivated mind results in an untrustworthy conclusion.

Imagine you are standing in a room in front of a red button. A scientist next to the button tells you “If you push the red button, a chute opens and candy falls from the ceiling”. To prove his statement, the scientist provides you with a dataset. The dataset reveals that the red button has been pushed 5,382,956 times and candy fell from the ceiling every time.
Trusting the data, you push the button. Poison gas fills the room and both you and the scientist die.

What happened? Clearly, the scientists did not push the button enough times. There was a 0.0000185771 % chance that poison gas would be released instead of candy.
Every problem is imperfectly solved because there is always another variable to discover and there is always a modicum of human error that is unaccounted for.

Is it possible to solve Hume’s problem?
Logically, no.
Here is why:
Suppose you set out to solve Hume’s problem. You create a set of conditions that need to be met in order to solve the problem.
According to Hume’s problem, the effort to solve Hume’s problem is insufficient. There is a variable missing and the mere fact that a human mind has endeavored to solve the problem, makes the solution imperfect.

What if an artificial mind, like a computer, is programmed to solve the problem?
Who programmed the computer?
Was it a human? If so, human error, limitation and lack of perspective is built into the machine. It cannot solve the problem any better than the person who designed it. It could, however, arrive at the incorrect answer much faster.

What is the best we can hope for?
Error reduction. Error elimination is arguably improbable, but if we endeavor to account for as much of our own limitation as possible, we can maximally approach the right answer to a problem. I think the solution to Hume’s problem can be best described as the distance between the observer and the target being perpetually divided in half. The observer and the target will never meet, but they will get closer to each other with every division.

Round 2
Opponent forfeits round. No new arguments.
Round 3
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