Bertrand russel

Bertrand Russel on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Bertrand Russel on Britannica Encyclopædia



Via induction we can account for the probability of the conclusion, never certainty.

Experience has shown us that, […], the frequent repetition of some uniform succession or coexistence has been a cause of our expecting the same succession or coexistence on the next occasion.’

Belief in the uniformity of nature -> probable reason

the man who has fed the chicken every day throughout his life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.

An asymptotic approach to certainty through probability: we will never be certain

The most we can hope is that the oftener things are found together, the more probable becomes that they will be found together another time, and that, if they have been found together often enough, the probability will amount almost to certainty. It can never quite reach certainty, because we know that in spite of frequent repetitions there sometimes is a failure at last, as in the case of the chicken whose neck is wrung. Thus probability is all we ought to seek.

It’s habitual to form expectations in this inductive way, but can this habit be justified rationally? Is it reasonable anyway?



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