Wann: 08. und 09. Juni 2022
Wo: Sorbonne Université – Collège de France
Wer: Prof. Dr. Kristina Engelhard
Since Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, the problem of induction arises at the junction of epistemology and metaphysics. On the epistemological level, it consists in finding a justification for inductive inferences: on the basis of a finite number of observations or experimental facts, how can we draw general or nomological hypotheses, which concern unobserved facts? On the metaphysical level, the problem is to prove a principle able to support ordinary or scientific inductions. If we can prove that the future will resemble the past, or that Nature is uniform, then our inductive generalizations or predictions may not be bold guesses after all. But how can we demonstrate this metaphysical principle, if not by induction, and thus by assuming the validity of inductive inferences?
This is the problem that Hume has left us. This conference will examine the question whether a metaphysical foundation of inductive inference is possible and desirable. How are the epistemological and metaphysical problems of induction articulated? Do we need a metaphysical principle of induction and, if so, how should it be formulated?
Since Hume, this principle has received various formulations: "the future will resemble the past" (Hume), "the same effects invariably follow from the same causes" (Mill), "there are universal and necessary laws of nature" (Lachelier and French Kantianism), or "the laws of nature have no exceptions" (Russell). What role should the concepts of resemblance, causality or necessity play in the formulation of the principle? Is it necessary to assume a principle of Uniformity of nature, to solve the problem of induction?
The existence of laws of nature may provide a metaphysical basis for induction. But how should we conceive their nature, so that they can play this role? Should we postulate universals, physical necessities, or dispositional properties? Is induction best construed as an abductive reasoning, which concludes that laws exist as the best explanation of our past inductive successes?
This conference will gather contributions from researchers in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science. Contributions from the history of philosophy are also welcome. How was the problem of induction received and treated in British philosophy of Common Sense, in neo- Kantian Transcendental philosophy, and in the French philosophy of science at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th?