begins his argument by defining inductive inferences as an inference that comes
from singular statements as in the results of experiments, or from universal
statements as in theories or hypotheses. (Popper, 27) He explains that we cannot be justified in inferring universal
statements from singular ones. No
matter how many times the inference turned out to be true, there is always a
situation in which it could turn out false.
Popper uses an example of no matter how many white swans one sees, this
doesn’t prove the conclusion that all swans are white. The “problem of induction” comes from this
situation in which one cannot justify inductive inferences. Popper says that some people believe in the
truth of universal statements based on an observation or outcome of an
experiment. He points out that this in
itself makes it a singular statement and not a universal one. Alternatively, he says that some believe a
universal statements truth can be derived from the truth of singular ones. Popper believes that this just means the
universal statement is based on inductive inference. (Popper, 28) So Popper says that asking about the truth
of natural laws is the same as asking if inductive inferences are justified. The way to justify inductive inferences is
by establishing a “principle of induction,” says Popper. This would consist of a statement with
inductive inferences put into a logical form.
However Popper says that by doing this, inconsistencies still arise in
the “principle of induction.” He argues
that a “principal of induction” would be a universal statement, and thus the
same problems with induction as he described earlier arise. To justify it one would have to use more
inductive inferences resulting in an infinite regress of continually using
inductive inferences to justify the previous inductive inferences.
order to get around this argument, a critic of Popper may use the reasoning
that the “principle of induction” is fully accepted by all of science and that
it must be an accepted principle in everyday life. For example people believe that the sun will come up everyday
just because it has come up everyday before.
However this is based on inductive inferences and will not necessarily
hold true. Popper’s critics would say
that these inductive inferences would have to be accepted or else many everyday
occurrences that people hold to be true would be consistently in question. This argument does not necessarily work,
because as Popper states that this principle of induction still leads to
logical inconsistencies. (Popper, 29)
As he says in his earlier example, just because every swan you’ve seen
is white doesn’t justify the conclusion that all swans are white. This same reasoning can be applied in
everyday life and therefore disputes these critic’s claims. There can always be an observation or
experiment that could falsify an inductive inference, even after numerous cases
that seem to strengthen the inference such as the sun rising everyday. Popper feels that these inconsistencies with
inductive logic are insurmountable evidence, enough for him to say that
inductive inferences cannot be justified.
Popper. “Logic of Scientific