An Aristotelian Account of Induction

An Aristotelian Account of Induction: Creating Something from Nothing

Louis Groarke
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    An Aristotelian Account of Induction
    Book Description:

    In An Aristotelian Account of Induction Groarke discusses the intellectual process through which we access the "first principles" of human thought - the most basic concepts, the laws of logic, the universal claims of science and metaphysics, and the deepest moral truths. Following Aristotle and others, Groarke situates the first stirrings of human understanding in a creative capacity for discernment that precedes knowledge, even logic. Relying on a new historical study of philosophical theories of inductive reasoning from Aristotle to the twenty-first century, Groarke explains how Aristotle offers a viable solution to the so-called problem of induction, while offering new contributions to contemporary accounts of reasoning and argument and challenging the conventional wisdom about induction.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7576-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. 1 A New (Old) Theory of Induction
    (pp. 3-21)

    THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT INDUCTION. Contemporary philosophers, almost universally, understand induction as the form of logical argument that allows us to infer universals from particulars: I see one black crow, two black crows, three, four, etc., and I conclude “all crows are black.” Or, more carefully, that “most crows are black.”

    As anyone familiar with present-day philosophy will know, the established view holds that there is a logical problem with induction. Because I observe a hundred black crows I cannot logically infer that the next crow I observe will be black. The next crow may be an albino one,...

  5. 2 Before and after Hume
    (pp. 22-94)

    THE POPULAR SCIENCE-FICTION WRITER ISAAC ASIMOV, inThe Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science, tells an all-too-familiar tale about the triumph of modern science over earlier natural philosophy. Asimov presents Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) as a kind of rebel hero who courageously rejected the narrowly deductive methods of traditional ancient thinkers. “Galileo’s general viewpoint,” we are told, “was just the reverse of the Greeks.” If “the Greeks minimized the role played by induction, Galileo looked upon induction as the essential process of gaining knowledge, the only way of justifying generalizations.”³ Galileo, on this account, turned ancient philosophy upside down, ushering in...

  6. 3 A “Deductive” Account of Induction
    (pp. 95-155)

    DOUGLAS WALTON, IN A RECENT BOOK on argumentation theory, emphasizes “the Aristotelian roots of logic as an applied, practical discipline.”³ While theorists in argumentation theory and informal logic acknowledge the seminal contribution of Aristotle, I will argue that most nevertheless misconstrue his position with respect to induction. In the following chapter, I make the case that Aristotle, in contrast to mainstream modern opinion, believes that inductive arguments are deductively valid. His position resembles that view attributed to deductivists in contemporary argumentation theory. Although this seems out of step with consensus, a historical survey reveals that it is not a rarely...

  7. 4 Five Levels of Induction
    (pp. 156-225)

    INA SYSTEM OF LOGIC, JOHN STUART MILL DESCRIBES the Greek view of induction:

    The induction of the ancients has been well described by Bacon … It consists in ascribing the character of general truths to all propositions which are true in every instance that we happen to know of. This is the kind of induction which is natural to the mind when unaccustomed to scientific methods. The tendency, which some call an instinct … is simply a habit of expecting that which has been found true once or several times, and never yet found false, will be found true...

  8. 5 Moral Induction
    (pp. 226-253)

    CONTEMPORARY THINKERS TEND TO ASSOCIATE INDUCTION with science, but Ancient philosophers proposed induction as a solution to the problem of identity, more globally construed. In Plato’s last dialogue, he imagines a conversation between a Cretan, a Spartan, and an Athenian about the relationship between the various virtues. The Athenian poses a problem: “Take our language about the four types of virtue [: courage, purity, justice, and wisdom]. If there are four of them, obviously we must hold that each type by itself is one … And yet we give one name to all of them … and this implies that...

  9. 6 Complete Syllogistic: The Hamiltonian Notation
    (pp. 254-279)

    IN THIS CHAPTER, WE WILL EXPLORE A HISTORICAL DISPUTE over the proper notation for syllogistic reasoning and use a modified version of a historical method to produce an exceptionally simple formal model capable of testing the validity of both inductive and deductive syllogisms.

    The historical episode in question centres on the claim of Scottish Enlightenment figure Sir William Hamilton, that the predicate term in a categorical statement should be quantified, like the subject term.³ Hamilton points out that the canonical notation is too vague to precisely distinguish the various categorical propositions. Consider the expression “AllSisP.” (Loosely, all...

  10. 7 A History of Intuitive Understanding
    (pp. 280-324)

    I refer to “intellect” here in a rather special sense which will be familiar to those who are students of the great patristic and medieval traditions but has otherwise been very nearly completely lost within our own. For us today, the word “intellect” has become so narrowed in meaning – reduced to a capacity for those attenuated forms of ratiocination whose paradigms are those of mathematical argument, or else of empirical justification – that we are scarcely able to read about intellect or reason in our earlier traditions of [thought] without grossly misreading them … For Thomas, as for the long traditions...

  11. 8 Creativity: The Art of Induction
    (pp. 325-362)

    IN THIS CHAPTER I WILL ARGUE that the mental operation of induction is, in the most fundamental sense, a creative endeavour and that even on Aristotle’s account true creativity must entail “the creation of something from nothing.” This may strike the careful reader as extreme, absurd, or even dangerous. It is important to avoid a misunderstanding. Though I argue for a kind of “creation of something from nothing,” this is not to make any kind of metaphysical claim about existent things somehow springing out of non-existence. It is to claim, more modestly, that induction produces more knowledge from less. Output...

  12. 9 Where Science Comes to an End
    (pp. 363-430)

    IN THIS FINAL CHAPTER I WANT TO COMPARE THE ACCOUNT I have developed of Aristotelian induction with contemporary views largely taken for granted in philosophy, science, metaphysics, and argumentation theory. A proper canvassing of issues calls for a somewhat disjointed treatment. This chapter falls roughly into three sections. The first section deals with a historical account of first principles; the second, with a recent attempt to insert a slightly reworked essentialism into the framework of modern analytic philosophy; and the third, with whether any room can be had for Aristotle’s essentialism in contemporary biology.

    I begin by defending the traditional...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 431-450)
  14. Index
    (pp. 451-467)