Special Issue "The Problem of Induction throughout the Philosophy of Science"

A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Benjamin Jantzen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Interests: algorithmic discovery; machine learning; philosophy of science; philosophy of physics; philosophy of biology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Any inference from current observations to observations not yet made or to generalizations that entail facts not yet in evidence is widely conceded to invite a Problem of Induction. Some view this as a problem of justification: How can we justify such ampliative inferences? This invites a focus on the relation of justification between theory and evidence, typically deploying the tools of conceptual analysis. Insofar as methodology is relevant, these analyses of justification tend to elevate existing scientific practices to the status of ideals. However, the focus on justification can also invite radical rejections of methodological conventions, such as the defense of non-empirical methods of theory evaluation in theoretical physics. In either case, there is a presumption that a logic of discovery is either impossible or irrelevant.

Others have framed the Problem of Induction in terms of the failure to obtain truth: Going beyond our observations entails the risk of error, and the problem is to ascertain how or if this risk can be eliminated, mitigated, or circumscribed. This invites a focus on method. Proposed solutions to this version of the problem include formal learning theory (logical reliability), meta-inductivism, and probably approximately correct (PAC) learnability. These proposals and their focus on method reopen the door to a non-trivial logic of discovery and are especially salient to the rise of machine learning in science and debates over its foundations and scope. Can machines carry out novel scientifically significant induction of theory from observation? What are the normative constraints on such algorithms? These more recent methodological approaches to the problem of induction have also given rise to the development of new domains of scientific practice, chief among them the burgeoning field of causal discovery.

How have these divergent interpretations of the Problem of Induction and the consequent strategies introduced to resolve or dissolve the problem shaped the recent philosophy of science? What should a philosophy of the new sciences of inductive learning look like? This Special Issue aims to bring to the fore the ways in which the Problem of Induction continues to drive the philosophy of science, and to evaluate the impact of proposed solutions to the problem of induction on both science and its philosophy.

Prof. Benjamin Jantzen
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Philosophies is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • problem of induction
  • confirmation
  • inductive skepticism
  • meta-induction
  • formal learning theory
  • logical reliability
  • theory choice
  • ampliative inference
  • machine learning
  • logic of discovery

Published Papers (3 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Article
Induction, Experimentation and Causation in the Social Sciences
Philosophies 2021, 6(4), 105; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6040105 - 16 Dec 2021
Viewed by 354
Abstract
Inductive thinking is a universal human habit; we generalise from our experiences the best we can. The induction problem is to identify which observed regularities provide reasonable justification for inductive conclusions. In the natural sciences, we can often use strict laws in making [...] Read more.
Inductive thinking is a universal human habit; we generalise from our experiences the best we can. The induction problem is to identify which observed regularities provide reasonable justification for inductive conclusions. In the natural sciences, we can often use strict laws in making successful inferences about unobserved states of affairs. In the social sciences, by contrast, we have no strict laws, only regularities which most often are conditioned on ceteris paribus clauses. This makes it much more difficult to make reliable inferences in the social sciences. In particular, we want knowledge about general causal relations in order to be able to determine what to do in order to achieve a certain state of affairs. Knowledge about causal relations that are also valid in the future requires experiments or so called ‘natural experiments’. Only knowledge derived from such experiences enable us to draw reasonably reliable inferences about how to act in order to achieve our goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Problem of Induction throughout the Philosophy of Science)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Scientific Variables
Philosophies 2021, 6(4), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6040103 - 13 Dec 2021
Viewed by 395
Abstract
Despite their centrality to the scientific enterprise, both the nature of scientific variables and their relation to inductive inference remain obscure. I suggest that scientific variables should be viewed as equivalence classes of sets of physical states mapped to representations (often real numbers) [...] Read more.
Despite their centrality to the scientific enterprise, both the nature of scientific variables and their relation to inductive inference remain obscure. I suggest that scientific variables should be viewed as equivalence classes of sets of physical states mapped to representations (often real numbers) in a structure preserving fashion, and argue that most scientific variables introduced to expand the degrees of freedom in terms of which we describe the world can be seen as products of an algorithmic inductive inference first identified by William W. Rozeboom. This inference algorithm depends upon a notion of natural kind previously left unexplicated. By appealing to dynamical kinds—equivalence classes of causal system characterized by the interventions which commute with their time evolution—to fill this gap, we attain a complete algorithm. I demonstrate the efficacy of this algorithm in a series of experiments involving the percolation of water through granular soils that result in the induction of three novel variables. Finally, I argue that variables obtained through this sort of inductive inference are guaranteed to satisfy a variety of norms that in turn suit them for use in further scientific inferences. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Problem of Induction throughout the Philosophy of Science)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Impact of Meta-Induction: From Skepticism to Optimality
Philosophies 2021, 6(4), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6040095 - 26 Nov 2021
Viewed by 379
Abstract
In the first section, five major attempts to solve the problem of induction and their failures are discussed. In the second section, an account of meta-induction is introduced. It offers a novel solution to the problem of induction, based on mathematical theorems about [...] Read more.
In the first section, five major attempts to solve the problem of induction and their failures are discussed. In the second section, an account of meta-induction is introduced. It offers a novel solution to the problem of induction, based on mathematical theorems about the predictive optimality of attractivity-weighted meta-induction. In the third section, how the a priori justification of meta-induction provides a non-circular a posteriori justification of object-induction, based on its superior track record, is explained. In the fourth section, four important extensions and refinements of the method of meta-induction are presented. The final section, summarizes the major impacts of the program of meta-induction for epistemology, the philosophy of science and cognitive science. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Problem of Induction throughout the Philosophy of Science)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop