John D.
Norton


home >> research >> induction and confirmation: material theory of induction  
I am preparing a book, The Material Theory of Induction. Many of the chapters in draft form are available for download.  Synoptic table of contents. Download draft chapters. 

The replicability of experiment, the gold standard of evidence, is not supported by a universal principle of replicability in inductive logic. A failure of replication may not impugn a credible experimental result; and a successful replication can fail to vindicate an incredible experimental result.The evidential import of successful replication of an experiment is determined by the prevailing background facts. Their success has fostered the illusion of a deeper, exceptionless principle.  "Replicability of Experiment," Theoria, 30(No. 2) (2015), pp. 229248. Download.  
1, 3, 5, 7, ... ?  Standard accounts of inductive inference are unstable, meriting skeptical attack. They have misidentified its fundamental nature. Accounts of inductive inference should not be modeled on those of deductive inference that are formal and noncontextual. Accounts of inductive inference should be contextual and material. I summarize the case for a material theory of induction.  "A Material Defense of Inductive Inference." Download. 
The inductive problem of extending the sequence 1, 3, 5, 7, is solved when these numbers are the ratios of the incremental distances fallen in successive unit times. The controlling fact is Galileo's assumption that these ratios are invariant under a change of the unit of time. It admits few laws and only one is compatible with the twonumbered initial sequence 1, 3.  "Invariance of Galileo's Law of Fall under a Change of the Unit of Time." Download.  
Here is a systematic survey of the many accounts of induction and confirmation in the literature with a special concern for the basic principles that ground inductive inference. I believe it is possible to see that all extant accounts depend on one or more of three basic principles.  "A Little Survey of Induction," in P. Achinstein, ed., Scientific Evidence: Philosophical Theories and Applications. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1905. pp. 934. Download.  
I do not believe, however, that any of these principles works universally and can ever be applied without some sort of adjustment to the case at hand. This has led to a proposal about the nature of inductive inference. I urge that we have been misled by the model of deductive inference into seeking a general theory in which inductive inferences are ultimately licensed by their conformity to universal schemas. Instead, in a "material theory of induction," I urge that inductive inference is licensed by facts that prevail in particular domains only, so that "all induction is local."  "A Material Theory of Induction" Philosophy of
Science 70(October 2003), pp. 64770. Download. 

In a material theory of induction, inductive inferences are warranted by facts that prevail locally. This approach, it is urged, is preferable to formal theories of induction in which the good inductive inferences are delineated as those conforming to some universal schema. An inductive inference problem concerning indeterministic, nonprobabilistic systems in physics is posed and it is argued that Bayesians cannot responsibly analyze it, thereby demonstrating that the probability calculus is not the universal logic of induction.  "There are No Universal Rules for Induction," Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science, 77 (2010) pp. 76577. Download  