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Michael Daniel

9-24-2006
Sober, pg. 188 – 193

Thesis: Although philosophers have tried to refute it, Hume’s skepticism has not

yet been successfully refuted.

Hume’s Principle of the Uniformity of Nature (PUN) states that nature must be

uniform in every possible way or else we can have no justification for induction. Hume

said that we must believe this in order to be able to induce anything. Sober says that we

can induce things without believing that. For example, we do not induce that all leaves

will always be green. We know that they change colors for the seasons. Sober modified

PUN to say that, “the future will resemble the past in some respect”.

Nobody has yet been able to clarify PUN so that it has these properties: “(1) PUN

is plausible.” “(2) PUN gives advice about what we should infer from present

observations.” “(3) If we want to make inductive inferences about the world PUN in

something we must believe, no matter what else we believe.” Sober proposes that since

these things cannot be proven we drop PUN altogether.

Sober rewords Hume again and says that Hume’s argument involves the idea that,

“a method of inference possesses some degree of reliability.” He then says that we have

a rule of inference that states that, “A rule of inference permits you to draw conclusions.”

The rule of inference allows us to conclude that all emeralds are green because all

emeralds that we have seen so far have been green. It also allows us to say that induction

has been accurate historically; therefore induction will be accurate from now on as well.

These arguments can not be proven thru logic because they are circular.
A philosopher named Strawson said that, “Induction is rational,” is an a priori

truth. In other words, it is like a postulate in mathematics. He agreed with Hume that

induction can’t be proven to reliably produce truth, which means that induction can not

reliably produce knowledge. The problem with Strawson’s argument is that if induction

can not be used to create knowledge then there is no reason to use induction. The entire

point of inducing things is to produce knowledge.

A philosopher named Black tried to justify that induction can be inductively

justified. He stated that because induction has been highly reliable until now, probably,

induction will be highly reliable if we use it now and in the future. He justified this

argument by saying that it was not circular because the conclusion does not occur as one

of the premises. To put it simply, Black played a word game with induction.

Counterinduction is the principle that tells us that past regularities will not

continue. For example, if I have always had $5.00 in my pocket for as long as I can

remember and I’m in line to buy a $5.00 movie ticket then one can counterinduct that

soon I will no longer have that $5.00 in my pocket anymore.

Nobody has yet proven Hume’s skepticism to be false.