Induction and Natural Kinds Revisited

In Benjamin Hill, Henrik Lagerlund & Stathis Psillos (eds.), Reconsidering Causal Powers: Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 284-299 (2021)
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In ‘Induction and Natural Kinds’, I proposed a solution to the problem of induction according to which our use of inductive inference is reliable because it is grounded in the natural kind structure of the world. When we infer that unobserved members of a kind will have the same properties as observed members of the kind, we are right because all members of the kind possess the same essential properties. The claim that the existence of natural kinds is what grounds reliable use of induction is based on an inference to the best explanation of the success of our inductive practices. As such, the argument for the existence of natural kinds employs a form of ampliative inference. But induction is likewise a form of ampliative inference. Given both of these facts, my account of the reliability of induction is subject to the objection that it provides a circular justification of induction, since it employs an ampliative inference to justify an ampliative inference. In this paper, I respond to the objection of circularity by arguing that what justifies induction is not the inference to the best explanation of its reliability. The ground of induction is the natural kinds themselves.

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Howard Sankey
University of Melbourne


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