Pragmatic justification

By Hans Reichenbach, from Experience and Prediction (1938):

The inductivist is like a gambler

Man makes a bet by adopting inductive reasoning: he isn’t nor asserting nor believing

To posit

we do no thereby say that we are convinced of its [an event’s] happening, that the proposition about its happening is true; we only decide to deal with it as a true proposition. The word ‘posit’ may express this taking for true […] ; the reason why we decide to take the proposition as true is that this decision leads us, in repeated applications, to the greatest ratio of success.

Reichenbach, Experience and Prediction, 1938; p.313

Induction is the best bet: the scientist is also in a worse position vis-a-vis the gambler; the latter at least knows his odds, the scientist bases on a bet all of his knowledge.

We don’t leave everything to chance, we opt for induction trying to secure ourselves with the best available way:

The inductive inference is a procedure which is to furnish us with the best assumption about the future. If we do not know the truth about the future, there maybe nonetheless be a best assumption about it, i.e. a best assumption relative to what we know.

Reichenbach, Experience and Prediction, 1938; p.348-9

We aren’t solving Hume’s problem of induction, but we are pragmatically closing it.

if we sit at the wheel of a car and want to turn the car to the right, why do we turn the wheel to the right?

A blind man who has lost his way in the mountains feels a trail with its stick. He does not know where the path will lead him, or whether it may take him so close to the edge of a precipice that he be plunged into the abyss. Yet he follows the path, groping his way step by step; for if there is any possibility of getting out of the wilderness, it is by feeling his way along the path. As blind men we face the future; but we feel a path. And we know, if we can find a way through the future it is by feeling our way along this path.

Reichenbach, Experience and Prediction, 1938; p.482

Is this a satisfactory solution? If yes, how is the success of science explainable up to now?

How to relate our feeling to experience. A high degree of verifiability, of certainty, but not absolute truthfulness.

Next topic: Logical Positivism



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