Lecture 3 - David Hume and the Problem of Induction

Look at Newton's cradle on the right and ask yourself this question: what justification do you have for thinking that it will continue to behave in the future the way it has behaved in the past?

This is not something you know a priori, through pure reason alone, since it implies no contradiction to imagine this behavior might change. It's also not something you know a posteriori, through experience, because your experience is of the past, and the question confronting you right now concerns the future. If you think that you can appeal to past experience to support the idea that nature is regular, you'd be begging the question, since past experience is a good indicator of the future only if you assume the orderliness of nature, which is the very point in question. Yes, your head is probably spinning right now from that massively circular argument...

And yet, this assumption that nature behaves according to regular and predictable principles is the very basis of virtually all our knowledge about the world, ordinary and scientific, so it's kind of a really big deal. In this week's lecture, Professor Millican gives us a brief introduction to the empiricism of David Hume, as well as one of the questions for which he is most famous: the problem of induction...



Click here to see the course slides

And check out how John Stuart Mill's attempt to solve this problem through his methods of induction.
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