With A Wave of His Wand: How Mitch LeBlanc Answers the Problem of Induction

Introduction

Mitch LeBlanc wrote an indirect response to me regarding the Problem of Induction wherein he relied heavily upon Michael Martin to deal with the presuppositionalist utilization of the famous problem. He apparently recognizes, to some extent, the alleged challenge set forth. My response to his post may be found here – http://choosinghats.blogspot.com/2009/09/mitch-leblancs-proposed-solution-to.html . He has now written another post here – http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/inductive-reasoning-and-the-christian-god/ wherein he states that I have missed the point of his previous article. He claims that his post is not intended to be a solution to the Problem of Induction and that it is debatable as to whether or not there is such a problem. In this post I will address one error on my part from my previous post before showing that Mitch’s most recent response consists of little more than hand waiving.

My Bad

In rereading Mitch’s post, it does appear that I misunderstood him concerning the quote regarding induction in science and the possibility of the sun not rising. The error is on my part and I am sorry for the confusion. It does not appear to have played a massive role in my post so I will move on.

Ignoring The Problem

Mitch writes, “Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem, but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

“Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem…”

There appears to be no pragmatic difference between arguments from philosophers who try to dismiss the Problem of Induction and those that are set forth in an attempt to resolve the problem in a stricter sense. One way to resolve a problem is to show that it is not a problem. Both groups of arguments are set forth to show that ultimately, there is no problem. The works of the philosophers mentioned by Mitch are grouped with literature addressing the Problem of Induction. If there were not an alleged problem there would not be a reason for these philosophers to address the topic at all. It may be that there is no problem, but Mitch has not shown this. Indeed, what Mitch actually does is asserts that there is debate about whether or not there is a Problem of Induction and then assumes without any argument at all that there is nota Problem of Induction.

“…but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

Also, “…the citing of various names is to show that the specific philosophical area we’re speaking of is still hotly debated!”

If Mitch wants to play the role of philosopher he will need to move quickly past this strange reasoning where mentioning that something is debated somehow makes it go away in favor of his own position. When Mitch writes, “As it stands then, presuppositionalists are simply bending the evidence when they present this idea that there certainly is a problem of induction and even moreso when they assert that they have the solution”, he blatantly begs the question. Mitch has not provided us with an argument that there is no problem. It must be pointed out that the presuppositionalist is not similarly begging the question or “bending the evidence”. Hume wrote on the problem, Russell wrote on the problem, Bahnsen wrote on the problem, I have written on the problem, and now Mitch himself has written on the problem. If it is not a problem at all, then please, show us why it is not. If it is a problem, provide us with a solution. Whether we leave this distinction or do away with it is rather unimportant for our purposes. Mitch has not provided a response to what has been raised regarding induction. Mitch misses my point. Naming philosophers is not argumentation. Stating that something is debatable is also not argumentation. I will leave it to the imaginations of the readers to spell out the results of an application of the slippery slope to this type of response used in the context of supposed philosophical discourse!

Inconsistency

We may have reason to disregard the entirety of the discussion thus far, for Mitch writes, “In fact, with regard to Science I agree with Popper’s falsifiability criterion and his conclusion that science relies primarily on deductive reasoning”. One of the biggest reasons Popper developed his philosophy was in response to the Problem of Induction. Mitch’s view of science may be incompatible with his argument that there is no such problem, as the view he holds is itself a result of taking the Problem of Induction seriously. Are we to agree with Popper that there are some real concerns about induction, or are we to agree with the other philosophers Mitch lists?
Where is the compatibility between the statement about induction that Mitch has written, “the uniformity of nature…is used in inductive reasoning” and the views of the pragmatists and Popper? Mitch must be rather confused. He appears to be simply throwing out names and views and hoping one of them sticks. He makes statements like that above concerning induction and how it works which aligns him with the answer to the problem Hume refuted then says that he is not trying to answer the problem because there is not one by appealing to pragmatists without actually presenting any of their arguments then jumps to accepting the view of Popper that was briefly touched on above. What exactly are we supposed to come to believe through all of these posts?

Wrong With Martin…Again

Mitch writes that, “…the relevance of quoting Martin on his analysis of Hume was specifically because Hume is the primary source of Bahnsen’s critique on induction. It stands to reason then that if Bahnsen is quoting Hume and misunderstanding what Hume meant, then either Bahnsen must abandon his advocacy of Hume’s ‘problem of induction’, appeal to another philosopher or reformulate the problem himself.”

I encourage the reader to check my original response to Martin’s quote. The quote is full of problems that Mitch just overlooks, the most significant being that, “…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’”. My original treatment of the quote shows several problems with what Martin would have us believe regarding Hume. We can go through the exegesis if it is necessary. Martin is wrong. I would presume that Bahnsen understood the relationship of Hume to the Problem of Induction in much the same way that I do. That is, Hume presented the problem better and popularized it. As for the latter part of Mitch’s assertion, if Bahnsen is misunderstanding yet quoting Hume and still presenting a problem then he has reformulated the problem. Mitch has no need to run through such hypotheticals as he has not shown that Bahnsen is misunderstanding Hume. Most importantly, Mitch is not responding to Bahnsen, he is responding to me.

More Unfamiliarity

Mitch writes that he is “disappointed” with my response to his objections to the Christian response to induction, finds it “largely superficial” and calls it “patent silliness”. Frankly, I find his “approach” to the Problem of Induction rather silly, but this does not constitute argumentation anymore than writing lists of the names of philosophers does. Mitch, like many others I speak to regarding this topic, is confused because he likely does not have a good understanding of the problem. The principle of uniformity cannot be disproven through an appeal to experience. Just because our expectations may turn out to be wrong in some given case or cases doe

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not mean that our expectations will not obtain in others. The problem for Mitch is that he has not justified his use of the principle of uniformity which he states is necessary to inductive reasoning with the result that he has no reason at all to give us for having the expectations he does. This line of thought is explicitly stated by Russell. To put it in very simple terms, Mitch has not shown us how we can know that nature will continue to exhibit any regularities at all. I can. Miracles are by definition rare occurrences.

Still Waiting On A Response To The Problem Of Induction

“As for my ‘grasping for problems that are not there’, I’d simply contend that presuppositionalism has a monopoly on this point and I dare not attempt to take share away from the stockholders.”

Mitch has taken the time to write two blog posts “in response” to me about a supposedly non-existent problem but cannot seem to give a very straight answer on where he stands regarding the alleged problem or how it is not actually a problem for him, though he has alluded to several attempts at resolutions which differ significantly from the response of a man whose rhetorical style he here mimics.
The remainder of Mitch’s response stems from his misunderstanding regarding the basics of presuppositional apologetics. I offer this now only as an assertion and hope to come back to it in future posts. The short version is that Mitch does not seem to get that presuppositionalists believe the Bible.


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