Inductive Support

In Gerhard Schurz & Georg J. W. Dorn (eds.), Advances in Scientific Philosophy. Essays in Honour of Paul Weingartner on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of his Birthday. Rodopi. pp. 345 (1991)
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I set up two axiomatic theories of inductive support within the framework of Kolmogorovian probability theory. I call these theories ‘Popperian theories of inductive support’ because I think that their specific axioms express the core meaning of the word ‘inductive support’ as used by Popper (and, presumably, by many others, including some inductivists). As is to be expected from Popperian theories of inductive support, the main theorem of each of them is an anti-induction theorem, the stronger one of them saying, in fact, that the relation of inductive support is identical with the empty relation. It seems to me that an axiomatic treatment of the idea(s) of inductive support within orthodox probability theory could be worthwhile for at least three reasons. Firstly, an axiomatic treatment demands from the builder of a theory of inductive support to state clearly in the form of specific axioms what he means by ‘inductive support’. Perhaps the discussion of the new anti-induction proofs of Karl Popper and David Miller would have been more fruitful if they had given an explicit definition of what inductive support is or should be. Secondly, an axiomatic treatment of the idea(s) of inductive support within Kolmogorovian probability theory might be accommodating to those philosophers who do not completely trust Popperian probability theory for having theorems which orthodox Kolmogorovian probability theory lacks; a transparent derivation of anti-induction theorems within a Kolmogorovian frame might bring additional persuasive power to the original anti-induction proofs of Popper and Miller, developed within the framework of Popperian probability theory. Thirdly, one of the main advantages of the axiomatic method is that it facilitates criticism of its products: the axiomatic theories. On the one hand, it is much easier than usual to check whether those statements which have been distinguished as theorems really are theorems of the theory under examination. On the other hand, after we have convinced ourselves that these statements are indeed theorems, we can take a critical look at the axioms—especially if we have a negative attitude towards one of the theorems. Since anti-induction theorems are not popular at all, the adequacy of some of the axioms they are derived from will certainly be doubted. If doubt should lead to a search for alternative axioms, sheer negative attitudes might develop into constructive criticism and even lead to new discoveries. I proceed as follows. In section 1, I start with a small but sufficiently strong axiomatic theory of deductive dependence, closely following Popper and Miller (1987). In section 2, I extend that starting theory to an elementary Kolmogorovian theory of unconditional probability, which I extend, in section 3, to an elementary Kolmogorovian theory of conditional probability, which in its turn gets extended, in section 4, to a standard theory of probabilistic dependence, which also gets extended, in section 5, to a standard theory of probabilistic support, the main theorem of which will be a theorem about the incompatibility of probabilistic support and deductive independence. In section 6, I extend the theory of probabilistic support to a weak Popperian theory of inductive support, which I extend, in section 7, to a strong Popperian theory of inductive support. In section 8, I reconsider Popper's anti-inductivist theses in the light of the anti-induction theorems. I conclude the paper with a short discussion of possible objections to our anti-induction theorems, paying special attention to the topic of deductive relevance, which has so far been neglected in the discussion of the anti-induction proofs of Popper and Miller.

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Georg Dorn
University of Salzburg


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