Appendix: Quandaries of Induction in Philosophy of Knowledge, Philosophy of Mind, and Artificial Intelligence


Of all the disquieting riddles and paradoxes found in the arsenal of epistemological scepticism—understood as a systematic and piecemeal scrutiny of the methods and paradigms of the formation and justification of knowledge-claims—one problem in particular has proved, time and again, to be a never-ending source of cognitive vexation. With a few notable exceptions, philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists and statisticians (e.g., Hume, Goodman, Putnam, Stegmüller, Boltzmann and De Finetti among others) have invariably either downplayed and deflected the seriousness of this problem and its variations, or have simply given up worrying about it in the hope that it may miraculously disappear. The said problem is nothing but David Hume’s strong version of the problem of induction which, unbeknownst to Hume himself, was destined to become the superacid of methodological scepticism, capable, in the blink of an eye, of eating away the foundations of any epistemic project built on naive forms of empiricism and rationalism.

It is often the case that philosophers who pose sceptical problems recoil in fear once they realise the far-reaching implications of such problems, and Hume, with his problem of induction, was no exception. They rush to defuse their inadvertent exercise in scepticism. But systematic scepticism is something akin to an explosive chemical chain reaction. Once it is set off, with every passing minute it becomes more difficult to extinguish the flames. Pour on more water, and the fire spreads to areas you never imagined flammable. A genuine philosopher—regardless of their alliances—seeks to examine how far the fire spreads…