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The Objectivist Solution to the Problem of Induction is Sound

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/18/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,828 times Debate No: 71960
Debate Rounds (4)
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The Problem of Induction:

"David Hume described the problem in An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, §4, based on his epistemological framework. Here, "reason" refers to deductive reasoning and "induction" refers to inductive reasoning.

First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relations, which form the basis for what he refers to as "matters of fact". He argues that causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds. For example, when one thinks of "a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another", one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc. There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls. In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise; for Hume, this is because the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction.

Next, Hume ponders the justification of induction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow. He uses the fact that induction assumes a valid connection between the proposition "I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect" and the proposition "I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar will be attended with similar effects". One connects these two propositions not by reason, but by induction. This claim is supported by the same reasoning as that for causal relations above, and by the observation that even rationally inexperienced people can infer, for example, that touching fire causes pain. Hume challenges other philosophers to come up with a (deductive) reason for the connection. If a deductive justification for induction cannot be provided, then it appears that induction is based on an inductive assumption about the connection, which would be begging the question. Induction, itself, cannot validly explain the connection.

In this way, the problem of induction is not only concerned with the uncertainty of conclusions derived by induction, but doubts the very principle through which those uncertain conclusions are derived." [1]

The Objectivist Solution:

Events are not caused by actions, but rather interactions between entities with distinct identities. If all things have objective and undeniable identities (if A is A), then, in any situation involving the same entities, the same results will necessarily follow. As such, the problem of induction does not stand.

In this debate, PRO will argue that the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction holds water, with both the problem and the proposed solution used as defined above.

The first round will be for acceptance only - I will present my argument in the second round, and my opponent will present his, along with any objections to my arguments that he sees fit to write. The third round will be used for counter-arguments and defences, as well as new arguments. The fourth round will contain no new arguments, and will only serve to allow the debaters a chance to both give final counter-arguments targeting the already-established arguments put forward earlier in the debate, as well as letting them conclude their arguments.

The BOP will be split - I will have to affirm that the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction is sound, while my opponent must argue that it fails.

No abusive semantical arguments, etc - I doubt that this will be a problem so I don't think I need to go into detail about this.

You will have 72 hours to post a round, can use up to 10,000 characters per round, and the debate will be in the voting period for ten days.

I don't care much about voting, but please be fair.





I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I propose to show how absolute certainty about causal connexions can be obtained solely via the application of the Law of Identity to entities.

To start, it is a fairly obvious axiom that A is A. Things have identity - they are each something - and they are what they are. It would be absurd to call a dog a cat if "dog" and "cat" were concepts with mutually exclusive qualities. I do not think that my opponent would challenge this point.

Next, examine that causality is based in the notion that entities interact, not actions divorced from entities. For example, the effect a billiard ball has on another that it hits is not a result of "movement interacting with nonmovement"without any notion of the qualities of the actions (for example, the speed of the movement, the stability of the nonmovent, etc.). If it were, broadly paraphrasing Piekoff, then an egg being substituted for one of the billiard balls would not change the scenario.

The fact of the matter is that actions do not exist in a void. They are directly connected to and derive all of their qualities from the actors involve. The event of a billiard ball pushing another is caused via an interaction of billiard balls ,

If all events are to be understood as the interactions of entities, if entities have absolutely inviolate natures (A is A), and if these natures are directly responsible for the outcome of the event (as in the egg vs. the billiard ball), then it follows that absolute knowledge about an event can be gained via an identitication of the components of an interaction.

Take, for example, the interaction between A and B. If the qualities of A, when exposed to the qualities of B, produce an entity with the qualities of C, then it can be said that A + B = C. If there are no outside variables at play, it is absolutely true that if A and B combine to form C they will always do so. This is because there is nothing but the natures of the entities to influence the outcome, and, since their nautes are not subject to change, nothing can cause A + B to equal Non-C.

It is universally true that A + B = C. What is not true is that, if the siituation changes, we lose knowledge. If we are suddenly examining a scenario in which A, B, and X were being combined to form Y, this in no way violates the knowledge that A + B = C. A and B, via their definitions alone, must necessarily form C, and this only applies to the actual situation . If any part of it changes, you are changing the context of the discussion, and, as such, cannot show a contradiction via different results of the same interaction because you are comparing the results of two different interactions.

If you try to apply the knowledge of A + B equaling C to situations where A + B is not descriptive of the entire equation, then, obviously, you will be wrong. However, if you keep in mind the proper context of your statements, they become timeless. It is the difference between "billiard balls always push one another" and "billiard balls, under conditions x, y, z, and whatever unknown conditions that were at play when I made my observations (normal gravity, for example), always push one another." The second captures every element of the situation, and, if that situation is replicated perfectly, it would always hold true because of the unchanging nature of the identities of objects.

I have shown that universal tautological statements can be derived solely from axiomatic knowledge (knowledge that A is A). There can be no doubt in whether replication of events is possible or reliable. Given this, induction has perfectly soliid grounding. Causality and the validity of induction are, therefore, no longer under fire and Hume does not pose a threat.


Point 1:

The way in which an entity behaves is determined by the syntax of the system in which it resides (by syntax, I mean rules of organization and structure). Objects are merely “pawns” which obey laws that are subject to change. Thus, we cannot be absolutely sure that entity X will always behave in such-and-such way in such-and-such context, because the rules according to which events unfold may change or have unknown irregularities. We can know this to be true for at least two reasons. First, interaction between objects is not reducible to the objects themselves. Interaction requires the participation of not only the causal entity, but of the all the affected entities as well. It is a prearranged relationship which requires both objects to ‘recognize’ how they are supposed to act in light of the physical laws they obey i.e., to recognize how they are implicated within the overall explanatory framework of reality. Second, since we can imagine an object behaving in different ways even under the same material conditions (for instance, we can imagine a universe in which gravity were temporarily suspended during the time a ball is thrown), the causal nature of an object is not inherent within the object itself. For if it were inherent within the object, such a scenario would be inconceivable. Since it is conceivable it is possible, and thus does not violate the law of identity.

To sum up, transformation of state depends on syntactic rules which determine how objects interact and behave.

Point 2:

Even if an entity’s causal nature were inherent within the entity itself, this would not be enough to overcome the problem of induction. This is because an entity’s causal nature does not follow logically, and must be derived from experience. Since our observations are necessarily local, we can never actually observe that an object will continue to behave the way it has in the past. We can merely say that is it in an object’s nature to behave as it has within the contexts it has thus far existed in, and extrapolate how it might behave in those contexts in the future. It may be in the object’s nature to behave differently at different points in time. Take the example of Goodman’s Riddle:

Suppose you have two hypothesis, namely “emeralds are green”, and “emeralds are green and will remain so until New Year’s Day 2050, at which point they will all turn blue.” Statistically, both of these hypotheses are equally confirmed by current observations.

My opponent must prove that it is logically impossible for an object to follow different rules (and thus behave differently) at different times or at different locations.

Point 3:

If my opponent attempts to get around these problems by simply defining objects to include their observed causal natures, such that object X behaves with object Y in Z way by definition, then I would simply point out that such an entity could not be said to exist through observation. That is, such a definition would be inapplicable to the real universe. We cannot empirically detect such a property and therefore would not be justified in ascribing it to any observed entity.

Point 4:

According to the Uncertainty Principle, there is a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously. In other words, the position and momentum of every single particle in the universe is not fixed ahead of time. This means that two identical particles under the same conditions can behave differently. If what my opponent is saying were true, then the uncertainty principle - one of the most well-established principles in physics- must be false.
Debate Round No. 2


On “Point 1”:

If that which does not exist cannot have influence on that which does, and if the only things which exist are existents (to say otherwise would be absurd, given the definition of “existent”), then any of the laws my opponent describes can only come about because of the qualities of existents (i.e. the things which make up reality or, in other words, its content). As such, his terminology does not impact my case – an interaction between gravity-causing entities which give rise to the “framework” of reality is no different than an interaction between billiard balls.

Given that the laws of physics can be treated in the same way as any other things, they can equally be contextualized within statements. If I say that “A has the qualities of X, Y, and Z when gravity has a force of F and the situation in general can be described as having G, H, and I characteristics”, this is true regardless of the future state of gravity or anything else. What matters is that we can gain knowledge of what happens under certain circumstances, and, if it is true that under the EXACT same circumstances the same events will play out the same way (this is undebatable if it is accepted that causality is nature-based), then the statement can be applied to any such replications of the circumstances to perfectly predict the results, thus showing that induction can result in absolute certainty by way of tautologies.

If something changes in the scenario, it is not the original statement’s job to apply to it. It is irrelevant if it is not in its scope. As such, the truth value of any statement is not dependent on changing circumstances, since those changing circumstances would render the statement inapplicable. If gravity suddenly inverts, this has no effect on statements made about the effects of normal gravity.

On “Point 2”:

Con claims that I “must prove that it is logically impossible for an object to follow different rules (and thus behave differently) at different times or at different locations.” This is not true. I must only show that certainty regarding future events can be gained via induction, and I have shown how this can be done (by contextually limiting statements). If I say that “emeralds are green under conditions x, y, and x”, this statement will retain its truth value no matter if the conditions change or not. If it is true once, it will always be true, and if it is false once, it will always be false. I do not have to be able to draw statements like “emeralds will be green under any circumstances and without any limitations” in order to be said to be gaining knowledge via induction.

If, using my previous example, I say that “emeralds are green under conditions x, y, and z”, this will be just as valid in the moment as it will be if it’s 2050 and emeralds have become blue. The original statement excludes emeralds in 2050, and, as such, does not have to worry about any of their qualities; the statement only encompasses what it encompasses, and to ask it to apply to things outside of its range is absurd.

On “Point 3”:

Every entity that is perceived has a nature at the time of perception. At that moment, under the conditions it was perceived, it is what it is, and this involves all of its qualities which would interact with the qualities of other entities. It is the process of abstraction that tells us when it is proper to apply concepts of these entities onto newly perceived entities, but the fact remains that the initial concepts formed by perceiving the first entities which describe their natures (unless my opponent wants to argue that we either perceive nothing or that we perceive things as they are not, which are both self-evidently false) are, even if they are not applicable to the real world at any point after they are formed, based on observed qualities and consist of absolutely true and timeless information.

On “Point 4”:

My opponent is begging the question – he assumes that the Uncertainty Principle is true and that my stance is false, and then proceeds to use these assumptions to disprove my position. He has to show why the Uncertainty Principle is not false (which, I admit, is a possible conclusion to draw from my arguments) in order to use it against me, rather than just assuming that it’s correct. In order to validate the Uncertainty Principle, my opponent needs to attack my objections to the logical possibility of such a principle by methods other than the Uncertainty Principle itself.

But thanks be to Con, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Ayn Rand's triumph over him.



I’m not going to address my opponent’s arguments individually, since they all follow the same line of reasoning and thus can be refuted all at once.

Essentially, what my opponent is arguing is that induction is sound so long as one adequately qualifies all of one’s conclusions. I.e., given the right conditions, X will occur. I agree with this, as it is tautologically true (things which behave in X way will behave in X way by definition). However, it is irrelevant to the problem of induction. The problem is that induction uses past experience to predict how entities will behave based on appearance. When making predictions, science cannot claim it is dealing with an entity that will behave in X way by definition. All science can say is that it is dealing with an entity that appears to be identical to an object it has dealt with in the past, and predict how it will behave based on that entity. My opponent is not even dealing with induction. He is “deriving” causal nature via deduction, such that definitions of entities include casual natures, and then hopefully applying such definitions to the real world, effectively assuming that said entities will be relevant in the future. This is unjustifiable, which is precisely why induction is limited.

An example of induction: whenever I throw this ball into the air, it comes down. Thus, that which I recognize as the ball will come down when I throw it in the future.

My opponent would claim that if the ball did not come down, it would not be the ball in question, and thus the original conclusion would still hold true. However, the entire point of induction is to predict how entities will behave. We are limited to appearances when predicting how things will behave, so we cannot assume that we are necessarily dealing with a ball that will come down after we throw it.

In order to get around this, my opponent must prove that it is logically impossible for two physically indistinguishable entities to behave differently. But that would require that an entity’s causal nature logically follow from its appearance, which would be deduction, not induction. States do not embody their causal natures, since laws are not material.

The Objectivist solution to the problem of induction requires that nature meet it on its terms. However, nature is obliged to do no such thing. There’s no reason to think that we will be dealing with “entities that behave in X way by definition” just because we have in the past, and there’s no reason to think that entities which appear the same possess the same causal natures.

Reasoning from the specific to the general is flawed, because there's no guarantee that specific instances of behavior will always be releavant. Objects that we recongize as X under conditions we recognize as Y will not necessarily behave the same way as they did in the past.
Debate Round No. 3


Let me quote from the given explanation of the Problem of Induction from Round One:

This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable[.]”

“In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise; for Hume, this is because the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction.”

Hume, with the Problem of Induction, is attacking causality at its core. His argument rests on the belief that it’s arbitrary to hold that two and two will always add to four on all future dates. It has nothing to do with whether we can tell what 2 is in all situations – as long as we can get clear and perfect knowledge about future events from prior ones, then induction is valid.

Observing a ball falling after being thrown and saying “If circumstances X, ball Y being thrown will result in it falling back down” is entirely an inductive process, given that it is reasoning from a particular event and forming an abstract concept and template applicable to future events. There is no justification given to the contrary by my opponent - just the assertion that I'm using deductive logic. In fact, there is no deduction without induction, given that deduction implies concepts from which to start deducing conclusions. All knowledge is, at its basis, inductive, even tautological knowledge (and I do believe that all knowledge is tautological, but that’s neither here nor there), so if I can show that knowledge can exist at all I have done my part.

My opponent is discounting knowledge gained via induction solely because he does not think that it will be applicable to events that are, at the very least, irrelevant. His argument is based on the idea that “[t]here’s no reason to think that we will be dealing with “entities that behave in X way by definition””, disregarding the fact that this doesn’t matter if the knowledge gained, no matter how useless, WILL apply if we do deal with such an entity. My opponent’s argument is the equivalent to saying that the equation “239532542235433 + 9399232434123253 = 9638764976358686” does not count as true knowledge because it’s unlikely that one would ever deal with those specific terms. The applicability of the knowledge is irrelevant if the knowledge is absolute and gained via induction – if the Objectivist argument gives knowledge those two qualities, then there is no validity in the Problem of Induction. It is only that which I have to show – no more, no less, and my opponent’s arguments are centered on me not showing more.

This is completely and totally equivalent to my opponent’s arguments:

“Mathematics is flawed and cannot produce any knowledge. We can see that 2 + 2 = 4 in one case, yes, but what guarantee is there that this will always hold true? It being a tautology doesn’t guarantee anything, since the case of 2 + 3 = 5 exists. You can’t say that I’m changing the statement I’m making since that would just mean that you’re not using induction, no matter if I’m actually changing the statement or not!”

The topic at hand has nothing to do with whether or not we recognize conditions or entities correctly or not. It has to do with the fundamental nature of causality. If causality is necessary and derived solely from the natures of the objects involved (and we can observe these natures at least in some sense), then we can, given perfect conceptual faculties and nothing else but induction, come to perfect truths that are applicable in every situation. If induction is a viable means to perfect knowledge, even in an abstract and non-useful way, then I have fulfilled my burden of proof.



My opponent is once again attacking a strawman. His confusion can be summed up in a single sentence: His argument is based on the idea that “[t]here’s no reason to think that we will be dealing with “entities that behave in X way by definition””, disregarding the fact that thisdoesn’t matter if the knowledge gained, no matter how useless, WILL apply if we do deal with such an entity.

As defined by the Encylopedia Britannica, the Problem of induction is as follows:
the problem of justifying the inductive inference rom the observed to the unobserved. It was given its classic formulation by the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–76), who noted that all such inferences rely, directly or indirectly, on the rationally unfounded premise that the future will resemble the past. There are two main variants of the problem; the first appeals to the uniformity observed in nature, while the second relies on the notion of cause and effect, or “necessary connection.”

If a person were asked why he believes that the Sun will rise tomorrow, he might say something like the following: in the past, the Earth has turned on its axis every 24 hours (more or less), and there is a uniformity in nature that guarantees that such events always happen in the same way. But how does one know that nature is uniform in this sense? It might be answered that, in the past, nature has always exhibited this kind of uniformity, and so it will continue to do so in the future. But this inference is justified only if one assumes that the future must resemble the past. How is this assumption itself justified? One might say that, in the past, the future always turned out to resemble the past, and so, in the future, the future will again turn out to resemble the past. This inference, however, is circular—it succeeds only by tacitly assuming what it sets out to prove—namely, that the future will resemble the past. Therefore, the belief that the Sun will rise tomorrow is rationally unjustified.

As you can see, my opponent is not talking about the problem of induction as understood by Hume.

Debate Round No. 4
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
First law of philosophy: for every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher
Second law of philosophy: they're both wrong

^ that pretty much sums it up
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
That man is a genius.

I'm going to use that to convince my school district to shut down its math program now. Thanks, guys! :)
Posted by bossyburrito 2 years ago
"I always had a hard time believeing in the existence of math because i cannot buy a number 2. I cannot taste an imaginary number. You cant make love to the number 7 (ive tried). Where are they? Im not sure math is true but i cant disprove it, but you cant prove math is true."

~ Jedi4
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
Those fvcking jews can never keep a secret
Posted by bossyburrito 2 years ago

I really can't tell who you are... RM was a possibility, but the thing is that Max seems to know who you are, so you must not be a banned member.
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
I'm going to go get my voting privileges and vote both of you down simultaneously
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
You go suck Rand's d!ck (if she has one)
Posted by bossyburrito 2 years ago
This is hilarious.
Posted by Genghis_Khan 2 years ago
There is no reason I can give.

I AM lashing out at the sources of my confusion...
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