Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On "Justifying" the "Inductive Principle"

In his debate with Eddie Tabash, presuppositional apologist Greg Bahnsen asked the following question:
Mr. Tabash, on what rational basis do you then, as an atheist, justify belief in the inductive principle?
If Mr. Bahnsen had asked me this question, I would have answered with the following:
I justify belief in the inductive principle on the basis of the axioms, the primacy of existence, and the objective theory of concepts.
Granted this is not the response which Tabash gave. But how would a presuppositionalist respond to my proposed response to Bahnsen? What “holes” could the anti-Objectivist uncover in my justification of the “inductive principle”?

Any thoughts?

by Dawson Bethrick

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24 Comments:

Blogger Vagon said...

Presumably Bahnsen has faults with induction because it is not deductive. This isn't really a problem anymore; modern probability solved the "problem of induction".

If you view inductive reasoning as simply a relationship between a sample n (number of time my experiences have been valid in the past) to a population n + 1, you have can form a probability of occurance that is statistically valid.

Why is this important? Modern probability theorist Andrey Kolmogorov successfully gave probability an axiomatic (and therefore deductive) foundation.

March 16, 2011 6:13 PM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 18, 2011 3:46 PM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

To Vagon:

Unfortunately modern probability doesn't address the problem of induction, and so it cannot solve it.

What reason have we to believe that the future will continue to be like the past? For example, what reason have we to think that the sun will rise again tomorrow, even given that it has risen every day in the past? Just because it rose every day in the past doesn't tell us anything about the future, so the inductive skeptic forewarns. And none of the mathematical axioms of probability theory answer this philosophical question.

To Dawson Bethrick:

I don't see that you have addressed the problem, either. Like the presuppositionalist, you're simply assuring us that your philosophical doctrines deal with the problem, but you aren't telling us HOW they deal with it. You might as well just say, "induction isn't a problem for me due to my philosophy of knowledge." Okay, but what about your philosophy answers the inductive skeptic? How do the "axioms" or the "primacy of existence," whatever that is, bear on the problem? How does the "objective theory of concepts" enable us to make inferences about the future? You're not actually giving us the information we need to have confidence in inductive inferences, and so you're in just as bad a spot as the presuppositionalist himself.

--Ben

March 18, 2011 4:06 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

hatsoff:

What reason have we to believe that the future will continue to be like the past?

Plausible Reasoning

March 18, 2011 5:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ben: “What reason have we to believe that the future will continue to be like the past?”

Ben, where did you get the concept ‘future’? To what exactly does it refer? What does it denote, and what is included in its content?

Ben: “I don't see that you have addressed the problem, either. Like the presuppositionalist, you're simply assuring us that your philosophical doctrines deal with the problem, but you aren't telling us HOW they deal with it.”

My proposed answer to Bahnsen is intended to present a high-level indication of where I would take the debate. It points to the rudimentary factors involved in grounding and understanding what is involved in inductive reasoning. It is not offered as a detailed explication of induction. Typically in a verbal debate, as in the Bahnsen-Tabash debate, one does not respond to a general question by launching into a torturously detailed analysis. Rather, one’s answer should likewise be general, and if the opponent wanted to pursue the matter, I would then be ready.

Your complaint has more to do with your own level of understanding than with the philosophical solvency of my proposed response to Bahnsen. It may very well be the case that you do not understand how the axioms, the primacy of existence, and the objective theory of concepts provide the proper basis for induction. But one’s failure to understand this does not constitute a mark against it.

Keep in mind one thing: In my blog, I specifically ask what “holes” the presupper might uncover in my proposed response to Bahnsen. Confessing “I don’t see how it addresses the problem” is not a hole in my answer; rather, it is really just an announcement of ignorance.

Ben: “You might as well just say, ‘induction isn't a problem for me due to my philosophy of knowledge’."

But unlike my proposed answer to Bahnsen, your alternative would not highlight the factors which are involved in addressing his question.

Ben: “Okay, but what about your philosophy answers the inductive skeptic?”

What specifically needs answering, and why?

Ben: “How do the ‘axioms’ or the ‘primacy of existence’, whatever that is, bear on the problem?”

This is a good question. Generally speaking, the axioms ground our reasoning in reality, and the primacy of existence teaches us the proper way to distinguish between subject and object, between fact and fantasy, between reality and imagination (thus ruling out theism as a contender to the matter). Grounding one’s reasoning in reality and bearing in mind the distinction between subject and object are vital to all human cognition.

Ben: “How does the ‘objective theory of concepts’ enable us to make inferences about the future?”

Another excellent question. The objective theory of concepts shows how concept-formation provides the model for induction. It also shows how time is an omitted measurement when it comes to entity classes, which is key to induction as you have presented it in your question to Vagon. This is why concerns about the future vs. the past miss the broader nature of induction. It’s also why I posed my questions to you about the concept ‘future’ above.

Ben: “You're not actually giving us the information we need to have confidence in inductive inferences, and so you're in just as bad a spot as the presuppositionalist himself.”

Knowledge level varies from individual to individual. That is why I would begin my response to Bahnsen at a higher, more generalized level, rather than launching into a detailed analysis. Hopefully Bahnsen would pursue the matter, in which case I have a lot to bring out. (See here).

Regards,
Dawson

March 19, 2011 6:38 AM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

Dawson,

You are correct that I am ignorant of your intended case for the rationality of inductive inferences (though after your last response I am beginning to get some rough idea of what you intend it to be). Just to digress for a moment, regarding conventions of communication, recall your statement that we justify induction by virtue of X, Y and Z. It seems to me that, given the context, this statement is only helpful if one of the following are true:

(1) A case has been made previously for how X, Y and Z justify induction, and you expect the audience to be familiar with this case.

(2) Sufficient familiarity with X, Y and Z leaves it obvious how one might use them to justify induction, and you expect the audience to have that level of familiarity with them.

It seems to me that (2) is out of the question, but maybe you expect the readers of this blog to satisfy (1). That might be a fair expectation given that you have evidently written extensively on induction. However, THIS reader does not satisfy (1), and in any case I don't think Bahnsen would, either.

To return to the topic, I'm sorry to report that after skimming over the articles you cited (and thank you for organizing them, which makes them easy to navigate), my ignorance remains. It seems that you want to say somehow that it is the very nature of the universe to behave in an orderly fashion. Or perhaps you might say that it is part of the definition of "the universe" that it is orderly. But this kind of response only sidesteps the problem. Why should we think that the nature of the universe entails that it is orderly in the ways our inductive inferences require, or indeed orderly at all? There seems to be no contradiction in supposing that, say, the sun will fail to rise tomorrow, even though it has risen every day for all our lives. Why, then, is it irrational to doubt that the sun will continue rise? I don't see that it is in the nature of the sun to rise every morning; such is certainly not part of the definition of "sun" (and even if it were then we could simply re-phrase the question accordingly). If I've missed something in your previous writings which addresses this concern, then feel free to copy-and-paste a response. But I couldn't find anything that appeared relevant.

Finally, regarding your question about time, I hope we all share an intuitive concept of past, present and future. I myself have a specific view of time which is motivated by my adherence to a modified form of Berkeleyan idealism, whereby we begin with the present experience as a reference point, construct models of experience around it, and extend those models to the experiences of all others. Needless to say, I don't expect many folks to share my technical expression of time, but that's okay! It is sufficient to share the intuitive concept. But maybe you have your own idiosyncratic view of time which lends itself to answering the problem of induction. If so, then I think you need to expound it.

--Ben

March 19, 2011 9:39 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ben: “It seems to me that (2) is out of the question, but maybe you expect the readers of this blog to satisfy (1). That might be a fair expectation given that you have evidently written extensively on induction. However, THIS reader does not satisfy (1), and in any case I don't think Bahnsen would, either.”

I very much doubt that Bahnsen would be familiar with my approach. And probably Bahnsen’s audience as well. That’s really neither here nor there. My response is intended to address the question Bahnsen asks from my worldview, regardless of who may or may not be familiar with it. At best, I think all Bahnsen could say is something to the effect of “I don’t understand” or “It’s not clear how that addresses my question.” But those aren’t arguments, nor are they deficiencies with my position. I’m certainly not going to abandon my position because someone out there may not understand it. Good grief no!

Ben: “To return to the topic, I'm sorry to report that after skimming over the articles you cited (and thank you for organizing them, which makes them easy to navigate), my ignorance remains.”

That may be because you only skimmed and didn’t read closely and exercise care in integrating the points I laid out. There will always be people who don’t pay close attention. That’s not my problem.

Ben: “It seems that you want to say somehow that it is the very nature of the universe to behave in an orderly fashion. Or perhaps you might say that it is part of the definition of "the universe" that it is orderly.”

Where did I affirm either of these positions? What did I actually state?

Ben: “But this kind of response only sidesteps the problem. Why should we think that the nature of the universe entails that it is orderly in the ways our inductive inferences require, or indeed orderly at all?”

This question, so far as I can understand it, seems to turn induction on its head. I don’t think we come to the universe with requirements for induction canned into our minds, and then hope that the universe we’ve arrived in just happens to satisfy those requirements. But that’s how I read your question. It’s a reversal, and I don’t accept it. There’s a better, indeed proper, way to view induction.

Ben: “There seems to be no contradiction in supposing that, say, the sun will fail to rise tomorrow, even though it has risen every day for all our lives.”

Tell me, Ben, how would you go about establishing the logical consistency between you propose as a legitimate “possibility” and the facts that you know about the sun and its relationship to the earth?

Ben: “I don't see that it is in the nature of the sun to rise every morning; such is certainly not part of the definition of ‘sun’ (and even if it were then we could simply re-phrase the question accordingly).”

It does not have to be part of the definition of ‘sun’ to understand that there is a contradiction. A definition do not exhaust the entire meaning of a concept; it only gives the essentials. There are facts which we discover in reality that need to be taken into account. That’s what the Objectivist view allows, and insists on.

[Continued…]

March 19, 2011 9:11 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ben: “If I've missed something in your previous writings which addresses this concern, then feel free to copy-and-paste a response. But I couldn't find anything that appeared relevant.”

Try a close reading rather than skimming. It will help you understand my position better. I’m not saying it’s going to answer all your questions, but it might help you refine the areas where your questions persist.

Ben: “Finally, regarding your question about time, I hope we all share an intuitive concept of past, present and future.”

Whether we do or not, to what specifically does the concept ‘time’ in your view refer? How did you form the concept?

Ben: “I myself have a specific view of time which is motivated by my adherence to a modified form of Berkeleyan idealism, whereby we begin with the present experience as a reference point, construct models of experience around it, and extend those models to the experiences of all others.”

I see. So you construct models of experience around present experience in order to form your concept ‘future’, and yet wonder what justifies supposing the future will be like the present (or past)?

Ben: “Needless to say, I don't expect many folks to share my technical expression of time, but that's okay! It is sufficient to share the intuitive concept.”

How do you know whether or not someone else shares your “intuitive concept”? What exactly is an “intuitive concept”?

Ben: “But maybe you have your own idiosyncratic view of time which lends itself to answering the problem of induction. If so, then I think you need to expound it.”

I already pointed out that time is an omitted measurement in the case of concepts of entities. Our concepts of entities do not have a validity date; they are open-ended with regards to time. Time applies only when it is contextually relevant, which may be implied, but is at any rate identifiable. But without such limiting contexts, time is essentially irrelevant. Think of the concept ‘man’. It includes all men who live now, who have ever lived, and who will live. So generalities pertaining to the entity class ‘man’, pertain without temporal constraints.

Of course, it helps to understand the objective theory of concepts, not only to understand why time is an omitted measurement when it comes to entity classes, but also to understand how we form concepts (including concepts of entities – what I mean specifically by “entity classes”) from a small number of units. I have not seen all men, past, present and future. And yet I’ve formed the concept ‘man’ which integrates all of them into a single unit. How did I do this? I did this by means of a process of abstraction, a key operation of which is measurement-omission.

Are you starting to see, at least just a little, how this bears on the nature of induction as such?

Regards,
Dawson

March 19, 2011 9:12 PM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

Dawson,

You may be right to observe that I don't understand your position, and that I haven't pointed out deficiencies in it. If so, then that's only because you haven't PRESENTED any such position. You haven't given an answer to the problem of induction. Now, you may have an answer---who knows? But until you actually share it here, there's not much I can do except encourage you to do so.

You indicate that you've already written this down elsewhere, and you gave a link to several hundred kilobytes worth of material in which you assure me a solution is somewhere lurking. But then can't you just copy-paste the relevant portions, or, if they are too large, direct me to them by paragraph numbering? I really don't think that's too much to ask. The portion I read, and to which I was responding in my last post, was "The Objectivist Alternative" section found on this page. In particular, you write:

"'Nature is existence,' says Peikoff. And he is right to say this. The uniformity of nature, then, is existence being itself."

It's hard to say what you might mean by this. I interpreted you as saying that the universe, or if you prefer, "nature" (AKA all that exists), is uniform by its very nature/identity, or perhaps by definition. You deny that you intend such an interpretation. Fair enough. But if that's not what you're saying, then what ARE you saying?

--Ben

March 20, 2011 3:01 PM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

Dawson,

You write,

"'Nature is existence,' says Peikoff. And he is right to say this. The uniformity of nature, then, is existence being itself... Nature is uniform with itself, since to exist is for something to be itself. If A exists, it must be A."

(source)

It's hard to guess what you might mean by this, however. I tried my hand interpreting it, in my previous post, but you deny that my interpretation is what you intend. Fair enough. But then, what DO you intend? In what way does your comment that "to exist is for something to be itself" purport to answer the problem of induction? I would suggest to you that this is not at all clear, and requires further explanation.

--Ben

March 20, 2011 3:12 PM  
Blogger Vagon said...

Hi Ben,

"Unfortunately modern probability doesn't address the problem of induction, and so it cannot solve it."

So you assert, but you fail to show why.

"What reason have we to believe that the future will continue to be like the past?"

Is there something in particular you would like to call out about how induction can be modelled as a deductive, probabilistic inference?

"For example, what reason have we to think that the sun will rise again tomorrow, even given that it has risen every day in the past?"

Even from your own existence (let alone the age of the earth) you can figure the probability of the earth rotating so that the you experience daylight by adding 1 day to the number of days (n) you have been alive to get your population. I don't know whether you live in the south pole or on the equator so I'll let you do the maths.

"Just because it rose every day in the past doesn't tell us anything about the future, so the inductive skeptic forewarns."

What you are trying to do is smuggle a requirement for absolute certainty into the problem of induction. Your requirement of absolute certainty presumes the possibility of omniscience. If you want to go down that path you need to offer a defence of omniscience - quite a task.

"And none of the mathematical axioms of probability theory answer this philosophical question."

The axioms are there to provide a deductive foundation. If you don't have a problem with deduction, then answering the "problem" of induction is exactly what has been done.

March 20, 2011 4:41 PM  
Blogger Vagon said...

Test, last comment did not appear.

March 20, 2011 6:45 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

The new Blogger comment procedure is temperamental.

March 20, 2011 8:03 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ben: “You may be right to observe that I don't understand your position, and that I haven't pointed out deficiencies in it. If so, then that's only because you haven't PRESENTED any such position.”

I’ve not presented any position? None at all? I directed you to a jump page on my website that contains five papers I’ve devoted to interacting with presuppositionalists on the issue of induction. And you say I’ve not presented a position? Earlier you stated that you only “skimmed” one or more of my papers (it’s unclear how many), and because many of your questions are addressed in one form or another in what I have already written, I encouraged you to actually examine – closely – what I have written. It does not appear that you have done this. Now you suggest that I copy/paste what I’ve written into this comments section. Why would I need to go to this trouble?

Ben: “You haven't given an answer to the problem of induction.”

Well, actually, I haven’t claimed to have done this. Examine the record – you’ll see that I haven’t. Rather, I think the objective theory of concepts does this already. That’s why I included it in my proposed response to Bahnsen! To help you, I’ve tried to highlight a few of the pointers on why I think this is the case, and even tried to explain a couple of them to you. Did you understand what I wrote?

Ben: “You indicate that you've already written this down elsewhere,”

What I stated was that I would have a lot to bring out on the matter, if I were to encounter Bahnsen on the issue. That is where I gave the link. You seem to read things into my statements that I have not actually stated. I trust you’ll try to be more careful?

Ben: “But then can't you just copy-paste the relevant portions, or, if they are too large, direct me to them by paragraph numbering?”

I’m not going to copy and paste what I’ve already published. What I’ve published already needs to be understood in the context that I’ve given it.

Perhaps what you’re looking for is not something I can, or would try to, supply on the matter of induction. Bahnsen carries on as if the problem of induction can be solved by reciting a few slogans and appealing to an imaginary being. He expects a short, sweet, unadorned answer which magically settles the already converted mind. That of course is a most irresponsible way to go about anything in philosophy. Don’t you agree? But what I’ve given – by pointing to the axioms, the primacy of existence, and the objective theory of concepts – is at least something that can be stated with a minimum of words while directing interested thinkers to the fundamentals which play the significant roles in grounding induction in reality and validating it as a conceptual operation.

Another point that I’d hope you’d take home with you, if you would read the five papers of mine that I linked to, is that the traditional problem of induction, as raised by David Hume, itself has many flaws. Hume’s own epistemology suffers from many key deficiencies, and it is some of these flaws which actually lead him to his skeptical conclusion about induction. I discuss Hume’s mistaken understanding of causality specifically here. And no, I’m not going to copy-paste it here.

I wrote: "'Nature is existence,' says Peikoff. And he is right to say this. The uniformity of nature, then, is existence being itself."

[Continued…]

March 20, 2011 9:17 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ben: “It's hard to say what you might mean by this. I interpreted you as saying that the universe, or if you prefer, ‘nature’ (AKA all that exists), is uniform by its very nature/identity, or perhaps by definition. You deny that you intend such an interpretation. Fair enough. But if that's not what you're saying, then what ARE you saying?”

Though I think my words already speak clearly for themselves, I did not deny the interpretation that you give here. I asked you to cite specifically what I stated because your earlier interpretation was:

Ben: “It seems that you want to say somehow that it is the very nature of the universe to behave in an orderly fashion.”

I questioned you on this because I tend to avoid using the word “behave” when describing *my* take on the uniformity of nature. So I wanted to see what exactly you had read, and alas, there was no instance of “behave” in what I had written.

Now speaking more directly to your own interpretation, let me ask you: if nature is in fact uniform with itself, and we discover this about nature, is it wrong to integrate this fact into our thinking about how the mind performs inductive inferences?

Also, if you examine the broader context of what I had stated about the uniformity of nature, you’ll see how I tie the issue to the axioms. You had asked earlier how the axioms bear on the problem. You see, I’ve already answered your question in what I’ve already written, and I pointed you in the right direction.

Ben: “In what way does your comment that ‘to exist is for something to be itself’ purport to answer the problem of induction?”

You’re making the same mistake that Chris Bolt made. He apparently interpreted me as suggesting that the axioms “solve” the problem of induction, while in fact I nowhere affirmed this. (See my correction of Bolt’s misunderstanding here.) This is simply more carelessness. My points about the axioms that I have given in the context of the issue are merely an element of a much broader discussion of the matter. As I’ve been at pains to stress to you, it’s not just the axioms, but also the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts which work together to answer Bahnsen’s question.

Regards,
Dawson

March 20, 2011 9:18 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Vagon & Hatsoff,

I have released your comments from the spam filter. I have no idea why Blogger's comment feature routes them there. I don't think it's anything you're doing, so far as I know. Blogger is, as Nal points out, temperamental. It's annoying for me as much as anyone else.

If a comment of yours doesn't post, it's most likely because it's trapped in the spam bin, and I will post it in due course.

Regards,
Dawson

March 20, 2011 9:20 PM  
Blogger Vagon said...

Thanks for the heads up Dawson.

March 21, 2011 3:35 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

This is slightly off topic. I posted a link in the comments of the previous article but no one here seemed interested in a logical debate.

Consider this an open challenge for anyone to come to my blog to try and refute the following article:

"How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence."

Regards,

Rick

March 22, 2011 10:21 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Rick: “This is slightly off topic. I posted a link in the comments of the previous article but no one here seemed interested in a logical debate.”

Rick, I don’t mind comments that are off-topic, even more than slightly off-topic. Really, I don’t. But after going numerous rounds with you, I would not encourage anyone who is seriously interested in logical debate to come knocking on your door.

Rick: “Consider this an open challenge for anyone to come to my blog to try and refute the following article: ‘How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence’."

I already responded to this blog of yours, Rick. See my 17 March comment on this blog. In my comment I pointed out some of the immediate deficiencies that I noted when I read through your blog. I do not see that you have responded to my points. It seems that if you were interested in logical debate, you’d be trying to defend your position from my criticisms.

How about this, Rick. Since you seem to think you’ve presented some earthshaking argument in your blog, could you reproduce your argument here in the form of a simple syllogism? Surely your interest in logic would help you do this. But when I read through your blog, I didn’t see any clear argument – it’s unclear what exactly your premises are supposed to be, and how they compel the conclusion that your god exists. I’m guessing that’s the conclusion you think you’re defending, given the title of your blog. Of course, if I’m mistaken here, you can clarify just what it is that you’re trying to argue. But a syllogism would help. If you don’t know what a syllogism is, perhaps you could read a text on logic, or Google the word in an internet search.

Also, you might want to bear another point in mind. Since you are presumably arguing for the existence of your god specifically, it seems that any argument you produce on behalf of proving its existence should contain safeguards which preclude drawing the conclusion that some rival deity or supernatural primal cause exists instead of your god.

For instance, the Blarko-believer might agree that identity, quantum physics and NDEs suggest or imply a “supernatural dimension,” but would use this to argue for the existence of Blarko rather than, say, the Christian god. It’s hard to see how such “evidences” would point to one and not to the other.

So how would you go about accomplishing this?

Regards,
Dawson

March 23, 2011 8:33 AM  
Blogger hatsoff said...

Yeah, I took a look at that Rick Warden fellow's blog, and it seemed pretty out there. His article "How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God's Existence" has little or nothing to do with the title---it doesn't even ASSERT that God exists, much less argues for it or proves it.

March 23, 2011 2:10 PM  
Blogger Vagon said...

Rick I'd also echo the sentiments of Dawson and Ben. You're article seemed to be a criticism rather than an assertion.

So were you looking for a defence of Objectivism or a criticism of an unsupported assertion?

March 23, 2011 7:48 PM  
Blogger r_c321 said...

Hey bahsenburner why do you feel the need top pick on a dead man?

Also, for you to hold on to your assertions you would have to be omniscient which you are not.

This is why atheism is self-refuting, self-defeating hence foolish.

July 05, 2011 9:43 PM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

To r_c321,

My God exists in a higher dimension than your God.


Daniel

December 06, 2014 7:49 PM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

Oh,

Write more, Dawson. I decree it.

Cheers and Thanks,

Daniel

December 06, 2014 7:51 PM  

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