Mitch LeBlanc’s Proposed Solution to the Problem of Induction

Introduction

Mitch LeBlanc has written a post concerning induction ( found here – http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/inductive-reasoning-and-the-christian-god/ ) in which he writes that “the uniformity of nature (or rather the principle of the uniformity of nature) states that ‘the future will resemble the past’ and is used in inductive reasoning”. He then attempts to describe the difference between deduction and induction and writes, “…in a deductive argument it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false (provided the argument is valid/sound)”. All Mitch need write in his parenthesis is “provided the argument is valid”. If an argument is sound then the argument is valid and the premises true. Whether or not the conclusion must necessarily be true given a valid deductive argument with true premises has been debated, but I do not wish to enter into that here. I will pass over his example of an inductive argument. Pointing out that the first premise (“All men are mortal.”) of his example of a deductive argument is itself a conclusion drawn from induction will do. This post will show that while Mitch apparently thinks that he has a solution to the Problem of Induction, he does not, and furthermore he is unable to find a fatal problem with the Christian worldview as it pertains to this well known philosophical problem.

Mitch On Induction

Mitch apparently grants that scientific reasoning is “largely inductive in nature” and even grants the possibility that the sun might not rise tomorrow. He writes, “Science would invoke the principle of the uniformity of nature, presuming that in certain circumstances the future will resemble the past. For example, because the sun has risen everyday in the past, it is probable that it will rise tomorrow. Though [sic] it is, of course, possible that the sun may not.” He further writes, “Bolt, and all presuppositionalists seems [sic] to be very skeptical of inductive reasoning (or at least, Godless inductive reasoning) and they owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning.” I do not know that this is the case with all presuppositionalists or that said skepticism is owing to Hume or Russell, but what he writes next is much more important. With “they” apparently referring to Hume and Russell, Mitch writes, “But since they have raised such issues, there has been ample response to the so called ‘problems [sic] of induction’ from the philosophical community”. Now I am aware that there is a great deal of literature written concerning the topic at hand, but this does not in and of itself mean that the problem has been resolved. Indeed, it is most often those problems which do not appear to have any resolution which elicit the grandest response from the pens of philosophers. I believe this to be the case with respect to the Problem of Induction.

Martin On Induction

Unfortunately Mitch turns at this point to mostly parroting Michael Martin, quoting him to the effect that Hume may not have actually held the view that most modern philosophers attribute to him concerning induction. Martin writes, “A detailed analysis of Hume’s works has shown that by ‘probabilistic argument’ Hume meant a certain type of deductive argument. Hume believed that all such arguments presuppose the uniformity of nature, but he did not attempt to show that probabilistic arguments in the modern sense are unjustified. Thus, appeals to Hume prove very little about whether inductive, that is, probabilistic arguments, are justified.” In my study of Hume I have found Martin to be quite incorrect in his evaluation of what Hume presents, but exegesis may be set aside for now. The reason the issue need not be pressed with respect to our purposes here is because whether or not someone interprets Hume correctly or not has little to do with the argument that has been raised regarding induction. Whether what someone labels the “Problem of Induction” actually comes from Hume or from Homer is unimportant with respect to providing a response to the problem (and in fact, the Problem of Induction was discussed long before Hume came on the scene, he merely presented it better and popularized it). In any event, this observation Martin makes is not available for taking by Mitch, as he has already stated that we “owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning”. There are further problems with the quote from Martin. For example, Hume did not believe “that all such arguments presuppose the uniformity of nature”, but rather offered this as one possible solution to the problem he raised and then set out to refute it. Further, there is not, so far as I can tell, a “modern sense” to “probabilistic arguments”. Such a phrase is almost humorous given the amount of disagreement that exists about the subject of probability. So much for the quote from Martin.

Scattershot

Mitch goes on to give us more Martin by following his method of throwing out names of philosophers who have written on the subject of induction apparently hoping that one of the more well known responses sticks. Mitch cites Martin concerning Strawson, Edwards, and Gemes. Throwing out names of philosophers is not the same thing as doing philosophy. If it were I might as well write “Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig” thus finishing the discussion and freeing me to go watch Lost with my wife. Mitch has much bigger worries when it comes to using this piece from Martin though. The philosophers mentioned do not solve the problem, the answers provided by these philosophers and others like them in relevant literature are often incompatible with each other so that Mitch cannot appeal to all of them, and most importantly Mitch has excluded this line of defense from his position anyway as he writes, “the uniformity of nature…is used in inductive reasoning”. Mitch is hence refuted directly by Hume as it was shown in his work long ago that the principle of the uniformity of nature appealed to in Mitch’s use of induction already assumes induction. Since this attempted solution to the Problem of Induction is mostly incompatible with Reichenbach’s and Madden’s pragmatic “solutions” as it is with the solutions of the philosophers already mentioned, I will only briefly point out that neither of these men has provided a solution to the problem raised in terms of any sort of justification and further their pragmatic use of induction also assumes induction. There are only so many approaches to solving the Problem of Induction, but judging by what Mitch offers as his solution he is probably unaware of this.

Christianity

Mitch, apparently thinking that he has offered a cogent response to the problem before us, moves on to try and attack the Christian worldview on the same point. Mitch confusedly writes, “Christianity claims to have a guarantee to the uniformity of nature. But [sic] how can this be when Christian apologists themselves says [sic] that it is possible that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world. [sic]” Now, I do not just believe it possible that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world, but rather believe that God actually does have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil in the world. This is hardly relevant to the justification of induction, however. God can and does allow for such things as say, hurricanes. Mitch writes, “Insofar as God could have morally sufficient reasons for a natural disaster, he could have sufficient reasons for causing…a departure from the normal. Just as we can account for all the evil in the world by appealing to God’s sufficient reasons

,

so too could the same apply for any departure from a preconceived uniformity of nature!” Finally we see how Mitch tries to tie the Problem of Evil to the Problem of Induction. The argument is creative, but extremely easy to answer. Indeed, one wonders if there is a real argument here at all. Could God have a sufficient reason for causing a departure from the normal? Depending on what we mean by “normal”, the answer is, “Yes, and in fact He has caused departures from the normal”. It does not follow from this that we cannot know the normal, if that is what Mitch (really Martin) implies. Could we appeal to God’s sufficient reasons for any departure from the uniformity of nature? Of course; in fact, I do. It does not follow that we cannot expect uniformity in nature. Mitch is grasping for problems that are not there.

Martin Embarrassed

Scripture as a whole presents a world which exhibits regularity under the control of God, thus the argument from the verse cited by Martin and repeated by Mitch need not be refuted here, although it is not beyond refutation. For example it is asked why we should suppose that passages of the Bible are true, as though this is not one of the questions before us in the discussion. Martin explicitly denies that the changing of seasons on Earth involve other factors in the Universe outside of Earth. Martin suggests that God might change and break one of His promises, something which is impossible for the God of the Bible to do. I have pointed out many times now that attempts to ascribe a nature and actions to God that are different from those described in Scripture are nothing more than strawman arguments. Such attempts show how desperate those opposed to Christ are to get rid of an argument that they are unable to answer. Mitch writes, (although if I remember correctly this is a quote from Martin, it is not in quotation marks on Mitch’s post), “Perhaps Satan decided to work his evil by bringing inductive chaos into the world, and God does not interfere because he does not want to deprive Satan of his free will”. I am not sure how this is a problem for me since I do not believe that Satan has a free will. Finally Mitch writes (again copied from Martin), “…even if the Christian worldview must be assumed to make sense of X it does not follow that it is true”. The trouble here is that one cannot “assume the Christian worldview” without accepting that it is true, as the claim to truth is itself a necessary constituent of the Christian worldview. I find it really unfortunate that Mitch copies such embarrassing statements from Martin apparently without giving them much thought, but he does so throughout his post.

Conclusion

It has been shown that Mitch offers no solution to the Problem of Induction that has not already been refuted, as he offers one of the responses offered and refuted by Hume himself. Further, Mitch has shown no problems with the solution available to the Christian on this matter. Finally, Mitch’s work shows unfamiliarity with the subject it addresses and is dependent almost exclusively on the work of Michael Martin even to the point of repeating many of his embarrassing statements.


One Comment

Mitch LeBlanc

Response:

http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/yet-another-response-to-chris-bolt/

Also, the new blog theme looks great!


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