The Evils of Inductive Skepticism

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An extract from Williams' The Ground of Induction (1947): "The sober amateur who takes the time to follow recent philosophical discussion will hardly resist the impression that much of it, in its dread of superstition and dogmatic reaction, has been oriented purposely toward skepticism: that a conclusion is admired in proportion as it is skeptical; that a jejune argument for skepticism will be admitted where a scrupulous defense of knowledge is derided or ignored; that an affirmative theory is a mere annoyance to be stamped down as quickly as possible to a normal level of denial and defeat. It is an age which most admires the man who, as somebody has said, 'has a difficulty for every solution'. Whether or not this judgment is fair, however, it is safe to say, with Whitehead, that 'the theory of induction is the despair of philosophy - and yet all our activities are based upon it'. [A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York, 1925, p. 35] So prodigious a theoretical contretemps cannot remain a tempest in the professors' teapot. The news that no foundation is discoverable for the procedures of empirical intelligence, and still more the proclaimed discovery that there is no foundation, and still more the complacency which recommends that we reconcile ourselves to the lack, condemn the problem as a 'pseudoproblem', and proceed by irrational faith or pragmatic postulate, will slowly shatter civilized life and thought, to a degree which will make the modernist's loss of confidence in Christian supernaturalism, so often cited as the ultimate in spiritual cataclysms, seem a minor vicissitude. The demand that rational man adjust himself to a somewhat bleaker universe than he once hoped for is only one large and picturesque instance of the sort of re-orientation which inductive intelligence, in its very nature,continually imposes, and well within the proved capacities of human reason and good-will..
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