Criticism of the Conventional Interpretation
Returning to something I said in part 1, the conventional interpretation of Aristotelian induction is that it is validated by complete enumeration of cases, that it is just a kind of deduction, and that its applicability doesn’t extend beyond the particulars which originally formed the induction. Are these claims really substantiated by all that Aristotle has to say on induction? McCaskey would say "no," and proceeds to show us why through the majority of his dissertation’s first chapter and in his essay "Freeing Aristotelian Epagōgē from Prior Analytics II 23."
In general, McCaskey proceeds through every use of the word “induction” (epagōgē) in the known Aristotelian works, beginning with passages whose overall meaning is clear, and proceeding to the more confusing ones; this method allows us to learn about the meaning of induction by understanding the passage. For instance, McCaskey begins his journey through the 96 uses of “induction” in the Topics, book 1, chapter 12, lines 105a10-19, in which four claims are clearly made about induction:
[Induction] (1) is different from and a counterpart to deduction, (2) is a proceeding from particulars to a universal, (3) results in a universal generalization that extends beyond the particulars that went into its formation, and (4) is generally easier for people to grasp than deduction. [McCaskey, “Regula Socratis,” page 23]These four claims about induction are repeated multiple times throughout Aristotle’s works, and make it highly doubtful that he would suddenly adopt a view of induction that contradicts one or more of these claims, as would be the case if the conventional understanding of PrA 2.23 is correct. Indeed, McCaskey uses this survey of “induction” to not only elucidate the meaning of the concept “induction,” but also to point out how erroneous the conventional interpretation must be.
Two of his counter-arguments to the conventional view should suffice before I move on to his revisionary interpretation of PrA 2.23.
(1) McCaskey notes that in the vast majority of Aristotle’s inductive arguments, the particulars subsumed in the generalizations are countless and cannot be enumerated successfully before making the generalization, such as his argument that what makes someone the “best” in a profession is their knowledge (in the Topics) or his argument about the nature of goodness I mentioned in part 1. Aristotle never presents (and defends) a completely enumerated list of cases and forms an inductive generalization from them, nor states that an induction can only apply to the cases enumerated and not, for instance, presently unobserved cases.
(2) In Posterior Analytics 1.5, Aristotle gives possibly his only example of a complete enumeration. As McCaskey summarizes it:
He says that knowing something to be true of scalene, isosceles, and equilateral triangles is not sufficient for knowing it to be true of triangles qua triangles [as in their essential nature]. It may be known of each triangle taken singly, but not of triangles ‘primitively and universally,’ not ‘of triangles as [triangles].’” [McCaskey, page 46]Here, there should have been a perfect case for a defense of enumerative induction, which Aristotle supposedly supports according to the conventional interpretation, and yet Aristotle flat out denies that something can truly be known about triangles by considering each individual triangle--the very method that an enumerative inductivist would be forced to use by his own doctrine. Here, he suggests that truly knowing something about triangles has something to do with identifying the essence of triangles, rather than completely enumerating cases. This gives support to the other interpretation of induction, because it is closely related to the inductive arguments in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Physics, and Eudemian Ethics that strongly suggest that induction is a tool for identifying the essence or nature of something.
McCaskey has several more counter-arguments in his arsenal, but none more powerful than his reinterpretation of PrA 2.23, the key passage cited in support of the enumerative induction interpretation.