The Other Kind of Induction

A presentation, “The Other Kind of Induction,” given at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Philosophy of Science, October 17, 2014.


There is a nowadays unfamiliar kind of induction, and I want to introduce you to it—historically, philosophically, and with a few case studies. It goes back to Aristotle, who said he got it from Socrates. It was how “induction” was conventionally understood in antiquity and then again from the late Renaissance until the Mill-Whewell debate.This induction is a progression from particular to universal but not (or not primarily) from particular statements to universal statements. It turns on Aristotle’s notion of formal cause and holds that ampliation takes place at the conceptual, not the propositional, level. It challenges Kant’s notion that there is no such thing as analytic a posteriori. Use of this induction is easy to find in the history of science, especially scientific laws. I’ll describe a few such cases. I’ll propose that “the Humean problem of induction” simply does not exist when induction is conceived as it was in the Socratic tradition.

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