The poverty of deductivism

17 March, 2018 at 17:52 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 4 Comments

guaThe idea that inductive support is a three-place relation among hypothesis H, evidence e, and background factors Ki rather than a two-place relation between H and e has some drastic philosophical implications, which partly explains why philosophers of science have been so reluctant to endorse it. The inductivist program … aimed at doing for inductive inferences what logicians had done for deductive ones … Once the Ki enter the picture, the issue of inductive support becomes contextualized: one cannot answer it by merely looking at the features of e and H. An empirical investigation is necessary in order to establish whether the context is ‘right’ for e to be truly confirming evidence for H or not … Scientists’ knowledge of the context and circumstances of research is required in order to assess the validity of scientific inferences​.

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4 Comments

  1. How is assessing the context of a set of hypotheses or a theory in relation to evidence a poverty of deduction? The conclusion must follow from the premises, the logical consequences must have a relation to the premises, which are usually inductions, or at least one premise is an induction, a fact in evidence. If the premises are true, the conclusion may be true – the essence of a theory is to explain that step and contextualizing the facts can surely help.

    The real issue is not whether the valid conclusion confirms the hypothesis because inductions can only falsify an hypothesis.

  2. “a three-place relation among hypothesis H, evidence e, and background factors Ki ”
    .
    For me, the “background factors Ki” that contextualize induction are inherently psychological.
    .
    For ancient Greeks, the background factor of the assumed perfection of circles led to a hypothesis of epicycles for planetary motion. For economists today, an assumed limit on money leads to hypotheses about inflation and budget constraints. You can always massage data so you ignore evidence that does not fit your assumptions. Thus the hundreds of trillions in assets reported by BIS statistics is dismissed as not money …
    .
    The interesting promise of technology is that we can each program a virtual environment with our own “background factors”; then we can explore hypotheses and evidence as if our assumptions are real, because the system has been programmed to enforce them. The challenge is to make the virtual realities so real that bad actors will voluntarily choose them because they are more fun than pesky reality with its numerous inconsistencies.

    • “The challenge is to make the virtual realities so real that bad actors will voluntarily choose them because they are more fun than pesky reality with its numerous inconsistencies.” Then we will only need virtual “good actors” regulating them, eh?

      • In the “Ship in a bottle” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the evil Professor Moriarty hologram character tries to break out of the holodeck. Captain Picard fools Moriarty into voluntarily going back into the holodeck. Moriarty roams the universe having adventures, thinking he is in reality. He can’t do anyone harm unless they enter his holodeck program …


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