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A Material Theory of Induction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Contrary to formal theories of induction, I argue that there are no universal inductive inference schemas. The inductive inferences of science are grounded in matters of fact that hold only in particular domains, so that all inductive inference is local. Some are so localized as to defy familiar characterization. Since inductive inference schemas are underwritten by facts, we can assess and control the inductive risk taken in an induction by investigating the warrant for its underwriting facts. In learning more facts, we extend our inductive reach by supplying more localized inductive inference schemes. Since a material theory no longer separates the factual and schematic parts of an induction, it proves not to be vulnerable to Hume's problem of the justification of induction.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I thank Cristina Bicchieri, Phil Catton, John Earman, Kevin Kelly, Francis Longworth, Michela Massimi, Joke Meheus, Robert Nola, Wendy Parker, George Smith, and three anonymous referees for helpful discussion; and my special gratitude to Jim Bogen for significant help.


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