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PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Carap's attempt to develop an inductive logic has been criticized on a variety of grounds, and while there may be some philosophers who believe that difficulties with Carnap's approach can be overcome by further elaborations and modifications of his system, I think it is fair to say that the consensus is that the approach as a whole cannot succeed. In writing a paper on problems with inductive logic (and with Carnap's approach in particular), I might therefore be accused of beating a dead horse. However, there are still some (e.g., Spirtes, Glymour and Scheines 1993) who seem to believe that purely formal methods for scientific inference can be developed. It may still then be useful to perform an autopsy on a dead horse when establishing the cause of death can shed light on issues of current concern. My intention in this paper is to point out a problem in Carnap's inductive logic which has not been clearly articulated, and which applies generally to any inductive logic. My conclusion will be that scientific inference is inevitably and ineliminably guided by background beliefs and that different background beliefs lead to the application of different inductive rules and different standards of evidentiary relevance. At the end of this paper I will discuss the relationship between this conclusion and the problem of justifying induction.


This article was originally published in PSA, 1994, Volume 1.