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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 10:30amSanction this postReply
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There are two particularly hard parts of explaining why induction is false. First, there are many refutations. Where do you start? Second, most refutations are targeted at professional philosophers. What most people mean by "induction" varies a great deal.

Most professional philosophers are strongly attached to the concept of induction and know what it is. Most people are strongly attached to the word "induction" and will redefine it in response to criticism.

In *The World of Parmenides*, Popper gives a short refutation of induction. It's updated from an article in Nature. It involves what most people would consider a bunch of tricky math. To seriously defend induction, doesn't one need to understand arguments like this and address them?

Some professional philosophers do read and respond to this kind of thing. You can argue with them. You can point out a mistake in their response. But what do you do with people who aren't familiar with the material and think it's above their head?

If you aren't familiar with this argument against induction, how do you know induction is any good? If you don't have a first hand understanding of both the argument and a mistake in it, then why take sides in favor of induction?

Actually, inductivists have more responses open to them than pointing out a mistake in the argument or rejecting induction (or evading, or pleading ignorance). Do you know what the other important option is? Or will you hear it for the first time from me in the next paragraph, and then adopt it as your position? I don't recommend getting your position on induction from someone who thinks induction is a mistake – all the defenses I bring up are things I already know about and I *still* consider induction to be mistaken.

Another option is to correctly point out that Popper's refutation only applies to some meanings of "induction", not all. It's possible to have a position on induction which is only refuted by other arguments, not by this particular one. I won't help you too much though. What do you have to mean by "induction" to not be refuted by this particular argument? What can't you mean? You figure it out.

Popper argues against induction in books like LScD, C&R, OK, RASc. Deutsch does in FoR and BoI. Should I repeat points which are already published? What for? If some inductivist doesn't care to read the literature, will my essay do any good? Why would it?

I recently spoke with some Objectivists who said they weren't in favor of enumerative induction. They were in favor of the other kind. What other kind? How does it work? Where are the details? They wouldn't say. How do you argue with that? Someone told me that OPAR solves the problem of induction. OPAR, like ITOE, actually barely mentions induction. Some other Objectivists were Bayesians. Never mind that Bayesian epistemology contradicts Objectivist epistemology. In any case, dealing with Bayesians is *different*.

One strategy is to elicit from people *their* ideas about induction, then address those. That poses several problems. For one thing, it means you have to write a personalized response to each person, not a single essay. (But we already have general purpose answers by Popper and Deutsch published, anyway.) Another problem is that most people's ideas about induction are vague. And they only successfully communicate a fraction of their ideas about it.

How do you argue with people who have only a vague notion of what "induction" is, but who are strongly attached to defending "induction"? They shouldn't be advocating induction at all without a better idea of what it means, let alone strongly.

There are many other difficulties as well. For example, no one has ever written a set of precise instructions for how to do induction. They will tell me that I do it every day, but they never give me any instructions so how am I supposed to do it even once? Well I do it without knowing it, they say. Well how do they know that? To decide I did induction, you'd have to first say what induction is (and how it works, and what actions do and don't constitute doing induction) and then compare what I did against induction. But they make no such comparison – or won't share it.

Often one runs into the idea that if you get some general theories, then you did induction. Period, the end. Induction means ANY method of getting general theories whatsoever. This vacuous definition helps explain why some people are so attached to "induction". But it is not the actual meaning of "induction" in philosophy which people have debated. Of course there is SOME way to get general theories – we know that because we have them – the issue is how do you do it? Induction is an attempt to give an answer to that, not a term to be attached to any answer to it.

And yet I will try. Again. But I would like suggestions about methods.

Induction says that we learn FROM observation data. Or at least from actively interpreted ideas about observation data. The induced ideas are either INFALLIBLE or SUPPORTED. The infallible version was refuted by Hume among others. As a matter of logic, inductive conclusions aren't infallibly proven. It doesn't work. Even if you think deduction or math is infallible (it's not), induction STILL wouldn't be infallible.

Infallible means error is ABSOLUTELY 100% IMPOSSIBLE. It means we'll never improve our idea about this. This is it, this is the final answer, the end, nothing more to learn. It's the end of thinking.

Although most Objectivists (and most people in general) are infallibilists, Objectivism rejects infallibilism. Many people are skeptical of this and often deny being infallibilists. Why? Because they are only infallibilists 1% of the time; most of their thinking, most of the time, doesn't involve infallibilism. But that makes you an infallibilist. It's just like if you only think 1% of haunted houses really have a ghost, you are superstitious.

So suppose induction grants fallible support. We still haven't said how you do induction, btw. But, OK, what does fallible support mean? What does it do? What do you do with it? What good is it?

Support is only meaningful and useful if it helps you differentiate between different ideas. It has to tell you that idea X is better than idea Y which is better than idea Z. Each idea has an amount of support on a continuum and the ones with more support are better.

Apart from this not working in the first place (how much support is assigned to which idea by which induction? there's no answer), it's also irrational. You have these various ideas which contradict each other, and you declare one "better" in some sense without resolving the contradiction. You must deal with the contradiction. If you don't know how to address the contradiction then you don't know which is right. Picking one is arbitrary and irrational.

Maybe X is false and Y is true. You don't know. What does it matter that X has more support?

Why does X have more support anyway? Every single piece of data you have to induce from does not contradict Y. If it did contradict Y, Y would be refuted instead of having some lesser amount of support. Every single piece of data is consistent with both X and Y. It has the same relationship with X and with Y. So why does Y have more support?

So what really happens if you approach this rationally is everything that isn't refuted has exactly the same amount of support. Because it is compatible with exactly the same data set. So really there are only two categories of ideas: refuted and non-refuted. And that isn't induction. I shouldn't have to say this, but I do. That is not induction. That is Popper. That is a rejection of induction. That is something different. If you want to call that "induction" then the word "induction" loses all meaning and there's no word left to refer to the wrong ideas about epistemology.

Why would some piece of data that is consistent with both X and Y support X over Y? There is no answer and never has been. (Unless X and Y are themselves probabilistic theories. If X says that a piece of data is 90% likely and Y says it's 20% likely, then if that data is observed the Bayesians will start gloating. They'd be wrong. That's another story. But why should I tell it? You wouldn't have thought of this objection yourself. You only know about it because I told you, and I'm telling you it's wrong. Anyway, for now just accept that what I'm talking about works with all regular ideas that actually assert things about reality instead of having built-in maybes.)

Also, the idea of support really means AUTHORITY. Induction is one of the many attempts to introduce authority into epistemology.

Authority in epistemology is abused in many ways. For example, some people think their idea has so much authority that if there is a criticism of it, that doesn't matter. It'd take like 5 criticisms to reduce its authority to the point where they might reject it. This is blatantly irrational. If there is a mistake in your idea it's wrong. You can't accept or evade any contradictions, any mistakes. None. Period.

Just the other day a purported Objectivist said he was uncomfortable that if there is one criticism of an idea then that's decisive. He didn't say why. I know why. Because that leaves no room for authority. But I've seen this a hundred times. It's really common.

If no criticism is ever ignored, the authority never actually gets to do anything. Irrationally ignoring criticism is the main purpose of authority in epistemology. Secondary purposes include things like intimidating people into accepting your idea.

But wait, you say, induction is a method of MAKING theories. We still need it for that even if it doesn't grant them support/authority.

Well, is it really a method of making theories? There's a big BLANK OUT in the part of induction where it's supposed to actually tell you what to do to make some theories. What is step one? What is step two? What always fills in this gap is intuition, common sense, and sometimes, for good measure, some fallacies (like that correlation implies or hints at causation).

In other words, induction means think of theories however (varies from person to person), call it "induction", and never consider or examine or criticize or improve your methods of thinking (since you claim to be using a standard method, no introspection is necessary).

For any set of data, infinitely many general conclusions are logically compatible. Many people try to deny this. As a matter of logic they are just wrong. (Some then start attacking logic itself and have the audacity to call themselves Objectivists). Should I go into this? Should I give an example? If I give an example, everyone will think the example is STUPID. It will be. So what? Logic doesn't care what sounds dumb. And I said infinitely many general conclusions, not infinitely many general conclusions that are wise. Of course most of them are dumb ideas.

So now a lot of people are thinking: induce whichever one isn't dumb. Not the dumb ones. That's how you pick.

Well, OK, and how do you decide what's dumb? That takes thinking. So in order to do induction (as it's just been redefined), in one of the steps, you have to think. That means we don't think by induction. Thinking is a prerequisite for induction (as just redefined), so induction can't be part of thinking.

What happens here is the entirety of non-inductivist epistemology is inserted as one of the steps of induction and is the only reason it works. All the induction stuff is unnecessary and unhelpful. Pick good ideas instead of dumb ones? We could have figured that out without induction, it's not really helping.

Some people will persevere. They will claim that it's OBVIOUS which ideas are dumb or not – no thinking required. What does that mean? It means they can figure it out in under 3 seconds. This is silly. Under 3 seconds of thinking is still thinking.

Do you see what I mean about there are so many things wrong with induction it's hard to figure out where to start? And it's hard to go through them in an orderly progression because you start talking about something and there's two more things wrong in the middle. And here I am on this digression because most defenses of induction – seriously this is the standard among non-professionals – involve a denial of logic.

So backing up, supposedly induction helps us make theories. How? Which ones? By what steps do we do it? No answers. And how am I supposed to prove a negative? How do I write an essay saying "induction has no answers"? People will say I'm ignorant and if only I read the right book I'd see the answer. People will say that just because we don't know the answer doesn't mean there isn't one. (And remember that refutation of induction I mentioned up top? Remember Popper's arguments that induction is impossible? They won't have read any of that, let alone refuted it.)

And I haven't even mentioned some of the severe flaws in induction. Induction as originally intended – and it's still there but it varies, some people don't do this or aren't attached to it – meant you actually read the book of nature. You get rid of all your prejudices and biases and empty your mind and then you read the answers straight FROM the observation data. Sound like a bad joke? Well, OK, but it's an actual method of how to do induction. It has instructions and steps you could follow, rather than evasion. If you think it's a bad joke, how much better is it to replace those concrete steps with vagueness and evasion?

Many more subtle versions of this way of thinking are still popular today. The idea of emptying your mind and then surely you'll see the truth isn't so popular. But the idea that data can hint or lead or point is still popular. But completely false. Observation data is inactive and passive. Further, there's so much of it. Human thinking is always selective and active. You decide which data to focus on, and which ways to approach the issue, and what issues to care about, and so on. Data has to be interpreted, by you, and then it is you interpretations, not the data itself, which may give you hints or leads. To the extent data seems to guide you, it's always because you added guidance into the data first. It isn't there in the raw data.

Popper was giving a lecture and at the start he said, "Observe!" People said, "Observe what?" There is no such thing as emptying your mind and just observing and being guided by the data. First you must think, first you must have ideas about what you're looking for. You need interests, problems, expectations, ideas. Then you can observe and look for relevant data.

The idea that we learn FROM observation is flawed in another way. It's not just that thinking comes first (which btw again means we can't think by induction since we have to think BEFORE we have useful data). It also misstates the role of data in thinking. Observations can contradict things (via arguments, not actually directly). They can rule things out. If the role of data is to rule things out, then whatever positive ideas we have we didn't learn from the data. What we learned from the data, in any sense, is which things to reject, not which to accept.

Final point. Imagine a graph with a bunch of dots on it. Those are data points. And imagine a line connecting the dots would be a theory that explained them. This is a metaphor. Say there are a hundred points. How many ways can you draw a line connecting them? Answer: infinitely many. If you don't get that, think about it. You could take a detour anywhere on the coordinate plane between any two connections.

So we have this graph and we're connecting the dots. Induction says: connect the dots and what you get is supported, it's a good theory. How do I connect them? It doesn't say. How do people do it? They will draw a straight line, or something close to that, or make it so you get a picture of a cow, or whatever else seems intuitive or obvious to them. They will use common sense or something – and never figure out the details of how that works and whether they are philosophically defensible and so on.

People will just draw using unstated theories about which types of lines to prefer. That's not a method of thinking, it's a method of not thinking.

They will rationalize it. They may say they drew the most "simple" line and that's Occam's razor. When confronted with the fact that other people have different intuitions about what lines look simple, they will evade or attack those people. But they've forgotten that we're trying to explain how to think in the first place. If understanding Occam's razor and simplicity and stuff is a part of induction and thinking, then it has to be done without induction. So all this understanding and stuff has to come prior to induction. So really the conclusion is we don't think by induction, we have a whole method of thinking which works and is a prerequisite for induction. Induction wouldn't solve epistemology, it'd presuppose epistemology.

What we really know, from the graph with the data points, is that all lines which don't go through every point are wrong. We rule out a lot. (Yes, there's always the possibility of our data having errors. That's a big topic I'm not going to go into. Regardless, the possibility of data errors does not help induction's case!)

And what about the many lines which aren't ruled out by the data? That's where philosophy comes in! We don't and can't learn everything from the data. Data is useful but isn't the answer. We always have to think and do philosophy to learn. We need criticisms. Yes, lots of those lines are "dumb". There are things wrong with them. We can use criticism to rule them out.

And then people will start telling me how inconvenient and roundabout that is. But it's the only way that works. And it's not inconvenient. Since it's the only way that works, it's what you do when you think successfully. Do you find thinking inconvenient? No? Then apparently you can do critical thinking in a convenient, intuitive, fast way.

At least you can do critical thinking when you're not irrational defending "induction" because in your mind it has authority.



Post 1

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 5:15pmSanction this postReply
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I recently spoke with some Objectivists who said they weren't in favor of enumerative induction. They were in favor of the other kind. What other kind? How does it work? Where are the details?
http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Jetton/The_Problem_of_Induction.shtml




Post 2

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 5:27pmSanction this postReply
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Elliott --
 Stonehenge was built by people who had no idea why the Sun comes up in the East.... but it did... day after day...  It moved a little, too, and they did not know why, but they placed stones for that, too.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 7/10, 5:44pm)




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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 8:34pmSanction this postReply
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http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Jetton/The_Problem_of_Induction.shtml

This article has few details of how to do induction and seems to presuppose critical thinking (e.g. about swan necks) as a prerequisite before induction is possible.

It brings up stuff like the "future will resemble the past" type principle but doesn't address the problems with that. (e.g. the fact that the future always resembles the past in some ways and not others, and how do you know which are which?)

it doesn't address any of popper's points or deutsch's.

it doesn't address paley's problem.

it doesn't say how to do induction, step by step.

It doesn't clarify what difference it makes if some idea is "induced" or not.

Problems relating to infinities are not addressed.

I think the word "justification" in the first paragraph means "authority". If it doesn't, the article doesn't clarify to me what it actually means.

Oh also, as usual, philosophical (abstract non-empirical) thinking isn't covered.

To summarize, the problem of induction is when is 'Why each S is P' sufficiently strong? Pretty clearly no uniform strength test can be given for every kind of endeavor.


So now we have to be able to judge complex matters in a non-uniform way with no single test? That's a prerequisite for doing induction? Then induction can't be how we think, because it requires thinking. It smuggles in the thing it's supposed to explain (thinking) as part of the process.


Finally it concludes by saying it doesn't have all the answers. So if you don't know how to make induction work, why not accept Popper's epistemology? Why so sure induction will turn out to work, when there's a different known way of thinking that could/does work?



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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 8:37pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Stonehenge was built by people who had no idea why the Sun comes up in the East.... but it did... day after day... It moved a little, too, and they did not know why, but they placed stones for that, too.


Which can be explained without induction, by critical thinking. But no one knows how to explain it by induction. So why attribute this to induction?

Your position seems to be: "if something sounds vaguely in line with induction's claims, attribute a bunch of value to induction". That's hard to argue with because it's a vague non sequitur and doesn't even try to answer any of my arguments.



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Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 3:49amSanction this postReply
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Finally it concludes by saying it doesn't have all the answers. So if you don't know how to make induction work, why not accept Popper's epistemology? Why so sure induction will turn out to work, when there's a different known way of thinking that could/does work?

My article was an overview, not a user manual. But let's see if I get it. Forget about "induction" (as delimited by Popper) and adopt the notoriously vague method of "critical rationalism". Simply wait for generalizations to appear like manna from heaven (meanwhile try arbitrary conjectures) and then try to disprove them with a single counter example.
Then induction can't be how we think, because it requires thinking. It smuggles in the thing it's supposed to explain (thinking) as part of the process.
Is this a "shell game" or only doublespeak?

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 7/11, 5:56am)




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Post 6

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 5:18amSanction this postReply
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This argument reminds me of extropian transhuman pancritical rationalism.

Google the terms together if you have never heard of them.

I went through this argument many years ago in another forum during my unfortunate stint with Neo-Tech in the mid-1990s. The poster basically said that Ayn Rand was a fraud, Objectivism was a selfish meme and a hoax, and that pancritical rationalism (PCR) was the bee's knees. Watching this thread evolve resurrects those bad memories of time squandered on a big zero.

Induction marks a central feature of Objectivism. The concepts and propositions are induced from evidence, validated within context, and testable to limits. So before we go further with a potential black hole of time robbery, I have one question for Elliot Temple:

Do we need you here at all and if so, why?

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 7/11, 5:19am)




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Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 9:34amSanction this postReply
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Do we need you here at all and if so, why?
Strictly speaking the answer is 'No' - but if the questions were, "Is he helpful to us?" the answer would be 'Yes.'

Induction is a tough subject and because Elliot comes at it from Popper's epistemology, which coincide with many Objectivist principles, yet disagrees with others, he helps us to examine and understand our beliefs and determine which ones, we as individuals, can justify, and how we justify them.

He brings us food for thought worth thinking about.



Post 8

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 10:07amSanction this postReply
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The scientific method:
1. Observe reality's initial state (visual, audio, touch, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, etc)
2. Perform a specific action (pucker your mouth & move your tongue in and out)
3. Observe reality's resulting state (visual, audio, touch, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, etc)
4. Repeat 1-3
5. Search through the collected observations to see if there is any consistent pattern of how the specific action alters reality's state. A consistent pattern is a hypothesis. The parts of the observations of reality on which the consistent pattern include in its initial and resulting states are the entities which you are identifying for inductive generalization.

The scientific method can be used to learn how past actions changed reality's state. Given a new state of reality, sequences of actions (called plans) are evaluated and the plan which predicts the state most consistent with one's goal(s) is selected. The selected plan is then performed.

Generally, life form's goals are to increase their resources and reliability. This frequently includes gathering useful materials, building useful structures and stores, and reproducing.

Induction is the pattern recognition part of the scientific method. You look for extants that impact your goals, and try to figure out how they interact, how to identify them, and what actions one should take with them. There's all sorts of pattern recognition in there.

It is true that when following the scientific method, that you can come up with hypothesis that are partially or fully inconsistent with future states of reality. Practically, using a flawed hypothesis in decision making may result in non-optimal plan selection, resulting in non-optimal goal attainment.

Pattern recognition is messy. Sometimes thresholds need to be re-evaluated. See "fuzzy logic". Make an organism that is 99% human, but then has 1% frog genetics that results in skin that dries out more quickly and really powerful hind legs. Is it still a "human"? Does whether such is human have any big influence on any important goals and also actions we must chose from?
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores on 7/11, 11:46am)




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Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
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Dean Michael Gores,

1. Observe reality's initial state (visual, audio, touch, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, etc)


Observe what? There are always many many things you could observe. Real scientific observation is selective.

2. Perform a specific action (pucker your mouth & move your tongue in and out)


Perform which action? There are many many actions one could perform. Real scientific action is selective.

Induction is the pattern recognition part of the scientific method.


Which patterns? There's always many many patterns.

In each case, being selective requires complex (critical) thinking. Ideas come first. Induction is supposed to explain how thinking works, but actually presupposes it.


Luke Setzer,

You propose to ban me without even giving a single criticism of any of the ideas I advocated (to try to demonstrate they are bad, false, low quality, evil, or whatever), nor any complaints about me being disruptive or flaming or anything else bad. I am not impressed. All you did is point out that I disagree with Objectivism about induction (I already knew that and was open about it), and that you previously had a conversation with a different person that you regret (so what?). If dissent and disagreement are't allowed in the dissent section of the website, then ban me I guess. I thought dissent was allowed here.



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Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
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Observe what? There are always many many things you could observe. Real scientific observation is selective.

Perform which action? There are many many actions one could perform. Real scientific action is selective.

Which patterns? There's always many many patterns.

In each case, being selective requires complex (critical) thinking. Ideas come first. Induction is supposed to explain how thinking works, but actually presupposes it.


Okay. Give us your answer to these questions. Please give us simple methods that cover all possible cases. How do we delimit those infinitely many possible conjectures?



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Post 11

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot, I never said to ban you, though evidently you wrongly "critically rationalized" that I did. I will certainly forego discussing epistemology with you. All I asked was a sound motivation to pay you or your arguments any attention when clearly I and others are quite satisfied with our epistemology and dissatisfied with yours. Time is precious. I have no interest in squandering it on half-ass ideas. Step to the plate and show us many real life examples of how Popper's ways lead to a more flourishing life than Rand's. Oh, wait, that would be inductive and you will not do that.



Post 12

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 5:04pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin Jetton,

Observe what? There are always many many things you could observe. Real scientific observation is selective.

Perform which action? There are many many actions one could perform. Real scientific action is selective.

Which patterns? There's always many many patterns.

In each case, being selective requires complex (critical) thinking. Ideas come first. Induction is supposed to explain how thinking works, but actually presupposes it.

Okay. Give us your answer to these questions. Please give us simple methods that cover all possible cases. How do we delimit those infinitely many possible conjectures?

(Following Popper.) We don't run into all the same problems because we use different methods in the first place.

We don't start with observation, scientific experiment, or finding patterns. All of those come later, after you already have various ideas. Then you do them according to your ideas. This is not problematic in general. It is a problem when you say stuff is "step 1" that actually presupposes ideas, and then claim your set of steps is a solution in epistemology and is how we get ideas.

We have a different approach that is not like induction and avoids many of induction's problems. By using different methods some problems never come up. We never have the problem of figuring out what to observe before having ideas, for example, because we say ideas come first before observations.

How are ideas learned then? Not from observations. Ideas come first. That's not to say observations are excluded. Observations are very useful. But first you need some ideas. Then you can observe (selectively, according to your ideas about what is important, what is interesting, what is notable, what is relevant to problems of interest, what clashes with your expectations, etc, etc ... and if your way of observing doesn't work out you can improve it with criticism, you can change and adjust it) and use the observations to help with further ideas (in a critical role – they rule things out).

Now this is a hard issue and you haven't read the literature and don't be too ambitious about how much you expect to learn from a summary. But anyway, because it's hard I'm going to split it up. First we'll consider an adult who wants to learn something. Then we could talk about how a child gets started after. I'll save that for later if the adult explanation goes over OK. The child is the harder case. I think it's too much to do the child first, all at once.

So, one of Popper's insights is that starting places aren't so important. I'm guessing this sounds dumb to you, because you're a foundationalist and think you have to start with the right foundations/premises/basis and then build up from there, step by step, making sure not to introduce errors or contradictions as you go. And Popper criticized and rejected that approach and offered a significantly different approach.

So let me try to explain what Popper's approach is like. People make mistakes. People are fallible. Errors are common. People mess up all the time. This isn't skepticism. People also get things right, learn, acquire knowledge, make scientific progress, etc, etc... But it's important to understand how easy it is to make mistakes. Knowledge is possible but hard to come by. To get knowledge you have to put a ton of effort into dealing with the problem of mistakes. I think if you read this the right way, you could agree with it. Objectivism recognizes that lots of philosophies go wrong and using the right methods is important and makes a big difference and some stuff like that.

So, OK, error is common and a big part of epistemology and philosophy is how you deal with error. What are you going to do about it? One school of thought tries to avoid errors. You use the right methods and then you get the right answers. That sounds very plausible but I don't think it's the right approach. I'll try to talk about Popper's approach instead. Popper's approach is you do try to avoid errors but you're never going to avoid all of them in the first place. That's not the primary most important thing. Whatever you do, some errors are going to get through. What you really have to do is set up mechanisms to identify and correct errors.

Popper applied this approach widely. Take politics and political systems. One of Popper's big ideas about politics and is trying to elect the right ruler is the wrong thing to focus on. Electing the right guy is trying to avoid errors. Yes you should put some effort into that but you can't do it perfectly and it's not the most important issue. What is the most important issue? That errors can be identified and corrected. In politics that means if you elect the wrong guy you find out fast, and you can get rid of him fast and you can get rid of him without violence. Popper called the wrong approach the "Who should rule?" problem and said most political philosophy argues about who should rule, when it should be focussing a lot more on how to set up political systems capable of correcting mistakes about who gets to rule.

What about epistemology? "Which ideas should we start with?" is a bit like "Who should rule?" You're never going to get it perfect and it shouldn't be the primary focus of attention. Instead you want to set things up so if you start with the wrong ideas you can find out the mistake and fix it quickly, easily, cheaply.

error correction is (a lot) more important than starting in a good place. look at it another way. if you start in a bad place but keep making progress, after a while you'll get to a good place and keep going. but if you start in a good place but aren't correcting errors, there is no progress, things never get better, long term you're doomed. so error correction is the more crucial thing you really need.

so how can adults be selective? how can they decide what scientific experiments to do or which actions and results to investigate? how can they decide what patterns to look for? answer: they already have ideas about that. they can use the ideas they already have. that's ok! they don't need me to tell them some perfect answer. i could give them some advice and there could be some value in it, but it doesn't matter so much. they should start with the ideas they already have, use those, and then if something goes wrong they can make adjustments to try to do something about it. (and they can also philosophically examine their ideas and try to criticize instead of waiting for something noticeable to go wrong)

in one sense, we're both advocating the same thing. people can and do use the ideas they already have about how to be selective, what issues to focus on, which patterns are notable, and more. but we popperians know that is what's going on, and know how to keep making progress from there even if people aren't great at it. inductivists on the other hand think they have this method from first principles that is how people think but actually it smuggles in all sorts of common sense and pre-existing ideas as unexamined, uncriticized premises. and that's a really bad idea. those premises being smuggled in are good enough to start with, but what you really need to do is examine and criticize them!

i have not addressed how children/infants get started. i also haven't explained how thinking works at a lower level. (being able to criticize and correct errors requires thinking. how is that done?). we can get to those next if what i'm saying so far goes over ok. also the very short answer for how thinking works is that evolution is the only known theory for how knowledge can be created from non-knowledge. human thinking, at a low level, uses an evolutionary process to create knowledge. (i mean thinking literally uses evolution, not metaphorically. and no i'm not saying you consciously do that).



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Post 13

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 9:41pmSanction this postReply
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Here's Popper's definition of induction:
For a brief formulation of the problem of induction we can turn to Born, who writes: '. . . no observation or experiment, however extended, can give more than a finite number of repetitions'; therefore, 'the statement of a law - B depends on A - always transcends experience.
Source:
http://dieoff.org/page126.htm

But the problem with this is that it fails to take into account that existence is identity -- and that identity is limiting. The person who posted Popper's rebuttal of induction (linked above) wrote this prologue:

Popper has argued (I think successfully) that a scientific idea can never be proven true, because because no matter how many observations seem to agree with it, it may still be wrong. On the other hand, a single contrary experiment can prove a theory forever false.
 
But that already contradicts Popper's concrete-bound definition of induction. It's true that a single contrary experiment can prove a theory forever false, but it is true for a reason. The reason it is true is because existence is identity; and this fact limits what can be true of the world. Whenever you prove something forever false, you have made an inductive generalization -- from a single observation or experiment -- which is true for all future attempts. Finding a black swan doesn't just say something about a particular group of swans, it says something about all swans. It says something about 'swanliness'.

-----------------------------------------------
Mere Conjecture: All swans are white.

Inductive Generalization: All swans are not necessarily white.
-----------------------------------------------

You can repeat this process using other criteria and chip away at the impossibilities until you are left with a narrow scope of what is possible -- sometimes allowing you to either predict or control outcomes in the world (via your prior use of induction). The possibility of things like fitting a camel through the eye of a needle, getting blood from a stone, etc. can be known with inductive generalization of what can and can't be true of things.

Ed




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Post 14

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 10:24pmSanction this postReply
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"Ideas come first". Where do they come from again? How can you come up with the idea of two apples: one apple and another apple... when you have never observed an apple? It sounds to me like you are trying to disconnect ideas from reality.

Ok, ok, let's say an idea is just information. And information is just a store of reality's state that was once put in place for the purpose of reading/observing that state at a future time. Let's say you are a brain created in a way disconnected from all sensory, except for practically random electromagnetic noise that once in a while causes a neuron to fire here and there in a completely non-predictable fashion.

Such a brain could remember the locations or times of the practically random events. It could figure out math like 1 + 1 = 2 etc... logic. Using the practically random events, given enough brain (computational) power, it could conceivably invent an imaginary 1D, 2D, 3D etc world that follows some set of logical self consistent laws. It could start with some initial state of this imaginary world, and using the laws, determine how its state would change.

Information is created by practically random events, observations, and then by performing computations/algorithms on the information in order to generate new information. Algorithms include concatination, culling, addition, multiplication, etc.

The basis for our ability to figure out what things are important has been established via billions of years of evolution... its kinda coded in our DNA via generations of random changes to our predecessor's instincts and abilities, selected by reproductive successfulness. This DNA builds a being that is capable of seeing a steriographic 2D stream of data in the visible electromagnetic spectrum and more. We are built to quickly notice visual movements and audio irregularities.

Our species is super into teaching their children via language. Language is an association of various streams of audio and/or written characters with various physical objects and changes. After children make the associations of the audio/characters with objects/changes, older generations can quickly transfer information which they found to be important/useful to their children.

Meanwhile, some portion of an individual/family/society/species time is devoted to generating new ideas that might be useful. Sometimes extremely useful new ideas are generated, and they can spread rapidly via communication.

"Ideas come first":

First there were amino acids and ribonucleic acids. Then they were assembled into various sequences. Some sequences were more stable than others. Eventually there came about a sequence that was capable of splitting down the center and then each side re-assembling the other side (duplication/reproduction). One could call this the first instance of writing information in the history of human evolution (back when we were just RNA or RNA-like).

You want to claim that was information first? I would disagree, reality's properties/laws which cause some sequences to be more likely than others, and the interactions which result in eventual reproduction are all involving the most primitive form of observation: where one part of reality causes another part of reality to change.

Observation is necessary in order for an idea to be written or read. When writing something, the thing being written to is observing the thing that is writing. When reading something, one observes something else.

Observation is a part of information processing, thinking. Any sort of algorithm or mental work requires a processing unit which has inputs that observe external information, perform the operations, and then write the results to something external. You could put a larger box around the processor/thinker and say its all internal, but then I'd say there is still observation, its just internal observations.




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Post 15

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 3:46amSanction this postReply
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People make mistakes. People are fallible. Errors are common. People mess up all the time (Post 12).
Please tell us how you learned this w/o first observing it. Was it manna from heaven or an arbitrary conjecture?
(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 7/12, 3:47am)




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Post 16

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 8:16amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Here is a relevant quote too:

"There is no such thing as ‘pure’ observation, that is to say, an observation without a theoretical component. All observation – and especially all experimental observation — is an interpretation of facts in the light of some theory or other" (Karl Popper, Myth of the Framework, p. 86)

All observations are made possible by the conceptual faculty. No theory required. But you do need to integrate. Popper tries to keep the fruits of integration -- theory -- while attacking the cognitive roots upon which theory depends.

and here is Popper on induction:

"…no amount of observation of white swans establishes that all swans are white (or that the probability of finding a non-white swan is small.) …Thus repetitive induction is out: it cannot establish anything. (Myth of the Framework, p. 104-15)"

He said it's insurmountable so quit trying. John McCaskey pointed out that Hume did not raise what we now call “the problem of induction.” The problem he stated was: how do we know the same cause will produce the same effect next time? The real question is not about generalizing but about causation.

Rand said that THE problem of induction was knowing when to stop looking for finer distinctions et al. After you examine a wide variety of cases, after you examine widely differing subcategories of what Bacon called a "predicate", when can you stop and formulate? As understood by people like Aristotle, induction is about discovering what makes something the kind of thing it is, what its essential characteristics are (though not necessarily the ones that define it, Aristotle would hold).
(Edited by Michael Philip on 7/12, 8:47am)
(Edited by Michael Philip on 7/12, 9:05am)
(Edited by Michael Philip on 7/12, 9:21am)




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Post 17

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 6:36pmSanction this postReply
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MEM: Stonehenge was built by people who had no idea why the Sun comes up in the East.... but it did... day after day... It moved a little, too, and they did not know why, but they placed stones for that, too.
Temple: Which can be explained without induction, by critical thinking. But no one knows how to explain it by induction. So why attribute this to induction?

No. Listen up.   Newton did not have calculus as a tool.  He invented calculus, proving it with geometric theorems.  So, really, the Greeks could have found calculus - and Archimedes almost did.  That would have led them to the Inverse Square Law of a conservative central force field.

But, it is wrong to claim that Stonehenge was built by people who understood the Euclidean foundations of Newton's proof of Kepler's Third Law -- even though Stonehenge was empirical proof of that very law and its underpinning.

They used induction.  Sun comes up: here... there... Over and over... 




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Post 18

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 7:14pmSanction this postReply
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"How are ideas learned then? Not from observations. Ideas come first. That's not to say observations are excluded. Observations are very useful. But first you need some ideas. Then you can observe (selectively, according to your ideas about what is important, what is interesting, what is notable, what is relevant to problems of interest, what clashes with your expectations, etc, etc ... and if your way of observing doesn't work out you can improve it with criticism, you can change and adjust it) and use the observations to help with further ideas (in a critical role – they rule things out)."

Ideas come first out of thin air. No pesky observations to muck up your thinking. I find it hard to believe anyone could take that seriously



Post 19

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 8:17pmSanction this postReply
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"What about epistemology? "Which ideas should we start with?" is a bit like "Who should rule?" You're never going to get it perfect and it shouldn't be the primary focus of attention. Instead you want to set things up so if you start with the wrong ideas you can find out the mistake and fix it quickly, easily, cheaply. error correction is (a lot) more important than starting in a good place. look at it another way. if you start in a bad place but keep making progress, after a while you'll get to a good place and keep going. but if you start in a good place but aren't correcting errors, there is no progress, things never get better, long term you're doomed. so error correction is the more crucial thing you really need."

horribly inefficient.



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