Resources on the Problem of Induction
How the Philosophy of Objectivism Answers Hume’s Problem of Induction
and Its Presuppositionalist Defenses
Articles by Dawson Bethrick
“The process of observing the facts of reality and integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction.” – Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 28
Rand’s statement above may seem wildly misguided, that is if you do not have a firm grasp of the objective theory of concepts. It is this theory, coupled with the primacy of existence, which answers skeptical criticisms of induction raised by David Hume and his philosophical heirs.
Rand sets out the general framework of her theory of concepts in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Dr. Allan Gotthelf has presented a scholarly overview of Rand’s theory in his paper Ayn Rand on Concepts: Another Approach to Abstractions, Essences, and Kinds. Although Gotthelf’s paper is not a substitute for Rand’s own exposition of her theory, it is a good introduction to her views for those who do not have immediate access to her book.
Presuppositionalist apologists are well known for raising Hume’s problem of induction in their debating strategies. Although these apologists typically will not admit it, their approach essentially takes the form of an argument ad ignorantium: non-Christians do not know how to answer Hume’s skeptical argument against induction, therefore Christianity is true. Regardless of how they characterize their reliance on strategies which raise the problem of induction, one thing stands out: presuppositionalists do not question the premises of Hume’s argument. They seem perfectly willing to accept all the faulty baggage which comes along with Hume’s conception of the problem, including his implicit acceptance of the primacy of consciousness, the erroneous event-based model of causality, and an arbitrary understanding of concepts. In sum, what lead Hume to his skeptical conclusion on induction was his faulty epistemology. But in deploying Hume’s problem of induction as a debating point against non-Christians, presuppositionalists fail to appreciate this fact, and consequently sign on to Hume’s more fundamental mistakes as if they were unquestionable.
I have pointed this and other problems out to presuppositionalists on my blog Incinerating Presuppositionalism, but apparently without effect (and also without being answered or refuted). It seems that once one can answer Hume and the presuppositionalists’ challenges, they slink off into the shadows and wait for other unsuspecting non-believers to prey on.
Below are key entries that I have made on my blog in connection with addressing Hume’s problem of induction and the presuppositionalist treatment of it:
The Uniformity of Nature (84 kb): In this paper, I discuss the meaning of “account for” – a common presuppositionalist expression, the relationship between the uniformity of nature and metaphysical primacy, the presuppositional approach to the issue, the meaning of the uniformity of nature, the objective alternative, whether or not uniformity in nature is a matter of faith, and confusion in presuppositionalism over the matter.
Humean Causality and Presuppositionalism (53 kb): In this article, I expose David Hume’s understanding of the concept of causality, namely its allegiance to the view that causality is essentially a relationship between events (as opposed to an entity and its own actions), and presuppositionalism’s failure to question this faulty understanding of causality.
Causality as a Necessary Relationship (61 kb): In this paper, I lay out the objective understanding of causality, which conceives of causality as a relationship between an entity and its own actions, thus recognizing the necessary relationship inherent between them, and answer presuppositionalist objects which seek to undermine the objective theory of causality.
John Robbins and the Foreclosure of His Critique of Objectivism (82 kb): John Robbins (1948-2008) was a student of Christian apologist Gordon Clark (1902-1985) and staunch critic of Objectivism. Robbins was one theist who sensed the threat that Objectivism poses to the religious worldview, and tried his best to counter it. In this piece, I examine Robbins’ attempt to vindicate the Humean view of causality as a relationship between events, and find it woefully deficient.
Bolt's Pile of Knapp (206 kb): My interaction with presuppositional apologist Chris Bolt's reaction to my blog The Uniformity of Nature. Bolt, a presuppositionalist apologist, found it necessary to post a response to my position on the uniformity of nature because my position poses a lethal threat to the presuppositionalist tactic of challenging non-believers to "account for" the uniformity of nature in the interest of answering David Hume's "problem of induction."
Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism: The Uniformity of Nature (74 kb): In this paper, which was originally written in response to a series of questions posed by Christian apologist Dustin Segers, I further develop and emphasize the Objectivist position that nature is inherently uniform independent of any conscious activity, in contrast to the presuppositionalist belief that the uniformity which we observe in nature was put in place by the conscious activity of a god. I explain why any view which treats the uniformity of nature as a result or effect of some prior causal action, commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. Ultimately the difference between the Objectivist view of the uniformity of nature and the Christian view, is the difference between objectivity and subjectivism in metaphysics. I provide quotations from both the Christian bible and from defenders of Christianity to document the Christian worldview’s affirmation that the uniformity which we observe in nature was in fact put in place by means of prior conscious activity. Thus the Christian position on the matter is verified as subjectivist in nature. I also explain why distinctive elements within Christianity, such as the doctrine of miracles, can only play havoc on the assumption that nature is uniform and consequently foil any foundation for science if taken seriously.
Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism: The Problem of Induction (92 kb): In this paper, which was also originally written in response to a series of questions by Dustin Segers, I lay out my basic approach for addressing David Hume’s “problem of induction.” In my discussion I include a list of Hume’s relevant epistemological mistakes which bear on the issue and explain why his skeptical conclusion about induction should consequently not be uncritically accepted. I also explain why the very meaning of the concept ‘future’ means that “the facts that obtain in the present are fundamentally relevant to any cognitive project of estimating future outcomes.” Even more penetrating on the matter are the implications of the objective theory of concepts, as laid out by Ayn Rand in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, for understanding precisely why inductive inference, as an application of conceptual identification, is rationally justifiable regardless of temporal and proximal constraints. This is because concept-formation, which is made possible in part by means of the process Rand calls measurement-omission, is the process by which the human mind forms open-ended categories of existents which are not limited to specific places or time periods. Since the measurements of time and place are omitted in the process of forming concepts, their meanings can be applied not only to the future, but also to the past, as well as to any place. Thus the problem of induction turns out not to be a problem at all, at least on the Objectivist view. The same cannot be said for Christianity.