Sunday, July 12, 2009

First Suggestion for Induction

In a dissertation by Dr. John McCaskey that I'm currently reading, it is noted that Aristotle appears to know exactly what induction is whenever he discusses it in his works. Aristotle,
never suggests that his theory of induction is problematic, complicated, or controversial. He never presents a catalog of competing theories of induction (as he frequently does for other matters), never says there are multiple ways of understanding induction, never says he will consider a kind of induction different from that usually discussed, never even explains fully what induction is." (Page 17 of "Regula Socratis: The Rediscovery of Ancient Induction in Early Modern England." Available for free viewing here:
In short, Aristotle was neither confounded by induction nor ignorant as to what its practice consisted of. On the contrary, readers of Aristotle are told in his work Topics that "[w]hat sort of thing induction is, is obvious."

One day, I would like to have that level of confidence in my understanding of induction, even if it will probably differ from that of Aristotle's. In fact, we should all strive to achieve his level of understanding.

My first suggestion then for induction is to gain some basic knowledge of it from everyday life, and use this knowledge to become more familiar with its basic method, to make it more obvious. Taking an alternative approach, such as immersing oneself in the heated philosophical controversies over the issues of induction, might leave one bewildered by--and unprepared for--the many variants of the method that now exist.

To conclude, I suppose I'll give a rough definition of what induction basically is, the very one that Aristotle thought was obvious: a kind of reasoning that moves from particular cases or instances to general or universal knowledge about those kind of particulars.

Next, I offer what I think Aristotle says on induction.

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