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     Induction is a process in which we reach
conclusions based on certain experiences.  Although induction is very important in
empiricism and scientific methods, it doesn’t provide us with certain
knowledge, because we can discover new data that can disprove our conclusions
that are based on our past experiences. Hume, who is a skeptic modern
philosopher, believes that knowledge is based on experiences.  He argues that it is difficult to justify
conclusions based on induction. Trying to solve the problem of induction, Hume
will claim that the future will always resemble the past, but this argument
will be rejected by him due to its failure in providing us with certain
knowledge and justifications. In this paper, I will be talking about Hume’s
problem of induction by explaining the distinction between matters of fact and
relations of ideas, the role of repetition in forming inferences about the
future, some implications of Hume’s critique of induction, and arguing with

     Before digging into the problem of
induction, there are some terms that Hume shed light on. In section IV, Hume
illustrates the distinction between two terms: relations of ideas and matters
of fact, but to have a better understanding of these terms I will define two
types of arguments a priori and a posteriori
arguments. Any claim that can be known by reason only (independently of
experience) is considered to be an a priori argument. For instance, you know
according to reason that in order for a square to be a square, it must have
four right angles; thus, knowing a square follows immediately from reason and
not experience. On the contrary, an a posteriori argument is a claim that is
known by experience only. Therefore, according to Hume, relations of ideas are based on apriori arguments like any mathematical
knowledge “sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic, and in short, every
affirmation which is either intuitively or demonstratively certain” (Hume, p:
14). For instance, two times three is equal to six
is a mathematical relation that is independent of nature. On the other hand,
matters of fact serve as our knowledge of the world and it is based on an a posteriori
argument such as the sun is rising or going for a walk. At this point, one may
ask how we can classify things as matters of fact or relations of ideas. To
answer this question, we must consider a contradiction.
In relations of ideas, contrary statements will lead to a contradiction; for example, we cannot imagine a square that has
four and three equal sides at the same
time or having a circle with four right angles. Thus, a contradiction in relations of ideas results in having things that
we cannot imagine. While in matters of fact, contrary things are conceivable
and do not imply a contradiction. Hence,
anything you can imagine in your mind can be considered a matter of fact as
long as it doesn’t contradict logically. For instance, it may be predicted to
have rainy weather tomorrow, but I can still imagine that it will not rain. I
can only be proven wrong by looking out of the window or getting out, and not
by appealing to reason. It is mentioned that “the contrary of every matter of
fact is still possible, because it can
never imply a contradiction” (Hume, p: 11).

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Moreover, Hume claims that matters of fact rely on cause and effect
that help us in explaining things. For example, if you see a watch in the
dessert you will realize that a human was present there. Then, he relates
experiences to the principle of cause and effect by using inductive arguments.
Induction provides us with necessary premises that can lead to conclusions, but
it doesn’t give us reliable premises with high certainty such as in deductive
arguments. Hence, the problem in induction is that there is always a chance
that something else can happen.  When we
want to understand any phenomenon around us, we must consider the relation
between experience and cause and effect. As we said before, matters of fact
rely on cause and effect which is not the case in mathematics in which it
depends on logical links. Hume claims that the knowledge of causation will be
based on experience by considering three arguments. The first one is the
example of the first human being Adam. Adam came to the world with zero
experiences. He didn’t know that human beings cannot breathe underwater. When he suffocated, he realized
that his sensory experiences didn’t help him; getting into the water only made
him realizes the fact that he cannot breathe in water. Similarly, he did not
know that he would burn himself if he gets too close to the fire. Hence, he
knew all of this by experiencing them. The second argument is about the
unfamiliar events that had been discovered at some point. For instance, we
could not know that gun-powder explodes
unless it was put on a trial.  Furthermore, the third argument talks about
familiar events. Hume explains it through conceivability, in which you can know
the effect through thinking about the cause without experiencing it. Hence, if
the effect is in the cause, this will result in having only one effect. Thus,
imagining a different effect will imply a contradiction.
For instance, in billiard, we can imagine different effects for the ball such
as it can rotate or it can go into a specific orientation rather than the
other, these effects yield contradiction; so, the only way to know the real
effect is by experiencing it. Therefore, familiar events are based on

After reaching a conclusion
that matters of fact depends on causation that is itself depending on
experience, one may consider how to derive knowledge from experience. Hume uses
the bread example: “If a body of like color
and consistency with that bread, which we
have formerly eaten, be presented to us, we make no scruple of repeating the
experiment, and foresee, with certainty, like nourishment and support” (Hume,
p: 19).  In other words, I ate bread
yesterday, and I noticed that it gave me energy. I saw a similar bread today,
hence I directly thought that it will give me energy, but Hume will argue that
we cannot explain this conclusion through reason since why should we think that
bread will still give us energy in the future; nor can we explain it through
experience because it only provides us with evidence from past
experiences.  Also, similar questions are
raised in the example of the sun. The sun rose 1000 years ago, it rose yesterday and today. Thus, arguing that the sun
will rise tomorrow because the future will always resemble the past is

     Hume thinks that there is a fundamental
problem with a certain kind of knowledge about the external world, in
particular, unexperienced things that are in the future. At this point, many
questions can be raised such as why past experience gives us any reason to
think that future experiences will be the same, such as the laws of nature,
which appear to remain more or less constant, and more precisely does inductive
reasoning lead to knowledge. So what we can do to answer these questions is to
make an inference from things that we’ve experienced in the past and things
that we will experience in the future. To be able to make these inferences we
must believe that the future must be like
the past. For example, assume that there is a box that contains 50 balls.


I have observed 20 red balls

All the balls that were observed were red

therefore, it is probable that all future balls will be red.


by generalizing about the red color of 20 balls,
I am assuming a valid connection that exists between the premises and the
conclusion. Hume’s problem is concerned with the assumption that we made which
can be demonstrated by argument B:


the color of the ball has held up in the past

thus, the color of the ball will hold up in the future


problem of induction shows us that there is no justified reason to think that
the past experience with all the red balls that I withdraw from the box will
likely yield red balls in the future withdrawing. Thus, we cannot from a
limited sample of red balls to infer that the remaining balls will be red in
color. According to Hume, my argument is seriously lacking since I cannot
guarantee that my conclusion is true just because of the past experience. There
is no reason to think that my prediction is true.

     On the other hand, one may argue that the
inductive method depends on probability. It provides us with a possibility that
our conclusion can be true or false. Hence, according to my early observations,
I have a high probability that my future balls will be red, then why I must
doubt my conclusion. This is similar to gambling as one plays more his chances of winning increases.  However, Hume will refute this claim by saying
that I reached my conclusion by generalizing from the 20 balls that I withdraw.
Moreover, I cannot know whether the trend will continue, but I assumed it will.
Thus, by doing so I am using induction to justify induction without having any
certainty which is completely problematic.


     In conclusion, Hume discussed the problem
of induction by using two justifications. The first one is that it is logical
that the future must resemble the past, but he refutes
it by explaining why logic and reason cannot guarantee our inductions.  The second one is assuming that something
will continue to happen since it has always happened before, but this argument
will not work since we are making a presumption which is considered a weak
reasoning to Hume. The problem of induction is not solved as some may argue,
but Hume leaves us with the opinion that although we cannot prove inductive
assumptions to be true or false, we can still use them as long as we realize
that our knowledge is limited.








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