Can experience be used to predict the future? | INFJ Forum

Can experience be used to predict the future?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by wolly.green, Jul 28, 2017.

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  1. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    This thread is about induction. So is induction possible? Is it possible to derive scientific knowledge – or any knowledge for that matter – from inductive inferences? Sunrise is the famous example that is used to illustrate induction, so we will start with that. Don’t worry if you’re scratchy on the details, it will all make sense soon.

    We have all experienced a sunrise. It’s that time of day when the sun ascends above the horizon and into the sky. Over the years, we have come to not only know what a sunrise is, but to actively expect it. Morning after morning, we all expect the sun will rise, even if we cannot see it beyond a cloudy sky. And surely enough, morning after morning our expectations are verified. But how did we come to know and expect that the sun will rise? Induction says that we “know” the sun will rise because we have extrapolated it from experience. Day after day, we have exactly the same experience of the sun ascending above the horizon, and thus extrapolate from those experiences that it will ascend again in the future. However, is this really how we come to “know”? Do we really gain knowledge about what to expect by extrapolating from experience? I want to argue that this cannot be the case. One problem to consider is: how do we ever know when two experiences are the same?

    How do I know when two experiences are identical? I may have experienced a sunrise today, but how do I know that I have experienced a sunrise in the past? I may label these two experiences with the same name – I may call them both ‘a sunrise’ – but how do I know they are the same? One answer is: I can say two experiences are identical if I experience them under the same conditions. For example, I know that one condition for a ‘sunrise’ is that it must happen in the morning. I know another is that it cannot without a sun. But this leads to a further question: how do you know which conditions are related to which experience? The answer, I think, is because our explanations tell us so. The fact that a particular experience is related to some set of conditions is itself a conjecture; a creative leap of imagination. But if we come to know two things are related though conjecture, then our prediction that the sun will rise in the future has nothing to do with extrapolation. Which implies that knowledge cannot be derived through induction.

    What about a law? There could be a law of induction that tells us when two experiences are identical. If we had such a law, we could use it to make inductive inferences because it answers our question: how do we know two experiences are the same? However, the problem with this approach is that no one has yet discovered such a law. No one has yet to formulate one that is useful for deriving knowledge from experience. Therefore, until it has been discovered, it cannot be used to ‘justify’ induction.

    In short, experience cannot be used to make predictions about the future. Nor can it be used to derive knowledge about anything. Thoughts?
     
    #1 wolly.green, Jul 28, 2017
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  2. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    A theory, conjecture or explanation. Experiences do not count since they are the very things that we want to have knowledge about. They're like facts to a theory.
     
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    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    I use theory, conjecture and explanation to mean the same thing. I am not so concerned with definitions here, so don't get too caught up in them. All that matters is that when I use the term 'knowledge', I am referring to something that is both: true and not experience. You could argue for a particular definition and rip my argument to shreds if you want, but you will have to walk me though it. It is just not enough to give your own definition and expect me to understand: I am not that smart.
     
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    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    This is actually not an example of induction. But you can turn your example into an inductive inference as follows.

    Suppose that every Tuesday for the past year, I have seen you stick a coin in your pocket. Because I have seen you do this over and over, I use induction to predict that on every Tuesday in the future, you will stick a coin in your pocket. It is now Tuesday, and I did not see you stick a coin in your pocket. Do I "know" that you have one in your pocket?

    This is induction. And this is what was trying to refute.
     
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  5. charlatan

    charlatan Permanent Fixture

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    I think there's definitely some kind of creative leap/imagination involved in assessing "regularities" of nature, and that tends to mean the thing we can really say is whether our creative leap has somehow fallen to criticism or not (that is, that the regularities we include in our best explanations have not yet been falsified or fallen to some alternate type of criticism).

    Probably one thing that comes to mind is whether there's a really clear line between reason/imagination and experience. After all, unless we're literally talking just experiencing the present, already the fact that we are processing an experience as similar to or different from a past experience seems to involve some imagination, even if it's not the most premeditated sort.
    The fact that we know that, given two events we've experienced, one is the past, already suggests we registered some differences.

    It seems to me that repetition is one contributing factor to our postulating regularity, but not the only one (for instance, given some repeatable experiment with 1 outcome of very low probability, premature use of repetition to conclude there is some regularity would result in excluding that low probability outcome.... so when we postulate a law, we are engaging in some rational leap).

    Experience might furnish us with repetition, but both the statement that it is a repetition (this sounds a lot like your questions on how we know something is even similar) and our saying there is a law involved (not just a high-probability event) are ultimately going to involve imagination.

    I think in a way, there's a kind of psychological re-positioning going on following Hume's skepticism; there's a common hope that empirical data and strict logic (as opposed to the more general thing we call reason) offer us really secure sources of knowledge .... that is, things that are hoped to in some sense be grounded/need not involve leaps... and the key thing about the Popper view in answering this is it emphasizes opening up to criticism more than it emphasizes a kind of a priori absolute security (that he'd probably say never existed to begin with). I'm sure that, while this is a good philosophical answer, it still leaves at least some at least psychological disquiet.
     
    #5 charlatan, Jul 29, 2017
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  6. QuickTwist

    QuickTwist Regular Poster

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    I would ask a weatherman.
     
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  7. SuperManda

    SuperManda Regular Poster

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    Well, actually, both inductive and deductive have flaws. Don't discount induction!

    So for devil's advocate... Let me give an example of inductive reasoning used more effectively than deductive reasoning:

    Inductive:
    Everyone who has ever lived on Earth has died. I am someone who is living on Earth. --> Therefore, I, too, will probably die.

    Deductive:
    *goes around trying to find zombies and other possibly immortal people* :fearscream::innocent::imp:

    Therefore, sometimes inductive is just quicker. Intuitive people tend to prefer induction, since they listen to their hunches and "see around corners." They are willing to accept outliers in a statistic as outliers, and not have to have 100% truth. Thinkers tend to like deduction better; they assume that outliers in a statistic will call curtains on the whole theory.

    I'd imagine induction is also more effectual in civil suits, where you only have to show a preponderance of the evidence. Deductive is better for criminal matters, because you need to get as close to certainty as possible without guessing too much.

    Does this help?


    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Walkingcontradiction

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    you can't have one without the other inductive reasoning leads to the development of theory and hypotheses while deductive reasoning is utilized to test out numerous variables in controlled environments. To make a case in point though, no two situations are ever truly identical. There will always be a variable of time. Unless... we want to get into the discussion of paralleled universes but that's an entirely different can of worms. Also, knowledge is classified as subjective and circumstantial. What we know to be facts today may change to fallacies tomorrow. The ability to identify patterns and project outcomes may not be fool proof but it is not something to scoff at either. Evidence based practice (insert eye role for anyone that has ever worked in the medical field) is based entirely off of established patterns and outcomes on sample groups and case studies. Differential diagnosis is more so related to deductive reasoning when the first (most obvious) option is incorrect. Think of when you get up in the morning and drive to work. You take the route most familiar and expect it to be clear because it always has been (in your experience). Once on the road, you encounter detours, construction and blockades. Now you must utilize deductive reasoning to find another route to get to work. How stressful would your life be if you had to do that every day? What time would you have to get up every day to arrive on time? Where would you retrieve your travel information from (routes, traffic, weather, construction). Have you personally tested each of your sources the appropriate number of times to be considered valid sources and not "intuitive decisions" to utilize? And all that mental work to consider is before you have even encountered the first person of your day. Inductive reasoning is an ingrained trait. Induction is inherent.
     
  9. Walkingcontradiction

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    Deduction is necessary to make progress.
     
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  10. Eventhorizon

    Eventhorizon Permanently relocated
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    Yes. I can predict that if you play wifh fire you'll get burned.
     
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  11. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    You should read the OP lol.
     
  12. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    I'm not questioning whether induction can be used to derive true explanations. I'm questioning whether induction is possible at all. The sunrise example I gave above explains why I think it is impossible. But if you can find a way around my objections, then you would have shown why it is possible.
     
  13. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Hi

    Thanks for joining in. Although you are correct that 'induction is inherent', this does not mean that it is possible. Given what I said in OP, can you explain how induction is possible?
     
  14. Walkingcontradiction

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    Can you please clarify what you mean by "how"? Are you looking for a biological breakdown, chemical response, MRI examples, or definitive results? Keep in mind that nothing is absolute.
     
  15. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    I mean in the same sense that I explained in the OP.
     
  16. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Hi @wolly.green! Very densely packed message, as always. Here are my two cents on induction. As per what you’re looking for, I will try to focus on what you said in the OP.

    I believe one way of meeting your paradox about induction is by resorting to the notion of form. No two experiences are ever identical, this is true. But in induction, we may not actually be looking for experiences that are the same. We may just be looking for experiences that have the same form, and become predictable on that basis.

    Your example somehow suggests that the person must be entirely dependent on the external event that ‘imprints’ the experience on them, without active participation in how the perception itself is formed. But perhaps the perception is the meeting point of external sense data on the one hand, and the formal faculty of the person’s mind to compartmentalize the sense data on the other.

    You would have the bundle of sense data on the one hand, like the rising sun; and on the other hand, the constitutive faculty of the experiencing subject to formally make sense of that experience. The person would formally discriminate between the fixed properties of an experience that are ‘essential’ and repeatable, on the one hand, and mere accidents that do not really have formal meaning and can thus be excluded from induction, on the other.

    In fact, if your mind was not constantly making formal sense of the bundle of sense data that is the rising sun as you experience it, you would never be able to say “this is a sun and it is rising”. You would only be witnessing a raw conglomerate of sense perceptions, impossible to make sense of. The very fact that you are able to describe the experience as “this is a rising sun” suggests that your mind has already formalized the experience from the sense data, and made it available to linguistic expression.

    From the moment that your mind has done that, simultaneously with the sensory experience itself, there is no reason not to suppose that in the future, it will perfectly be able to recognize the same basic formal properties that will allow it to say that in both cases, “this is a rising sun.”

    Hence, induction is (formally) possible. :)

    (This is adapted from Kant, by the way. I do not claim to have to come up with it out of the blue.)
     
    #16 Ren, Oct 14, 2017
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  17. charlatan

    charlatan Permanent Fixture

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    Ah, this is still active!

    Anyway, to engage this further: I suppose what you might be going for is that what is perceived as a problem of induction is actually just the fallibility/error-proneness of reason. Since, you might argue, the problem isn't extrapolating that regularities you have observed in fact always will be observed. Rather, the very leap that there was a regularity already was just that -- a leap.

    Regardless of whether the above captures some of what you think, a question I might ask just to clarify your position is: would you say someone who merely notes what propositions are true of their two/N experiences is noting a relation among those experiences in the sense you meant "relation" in the OP? That is, say they don't say some proposition holds true in both experiences for some reason. Rather, they merely say that it holds true in both.

    Because as I understand it, once you postulate a reason why a proposition is true in even two experiences, you already have jumped to a "regularity" -- that is, the reason would tell you when the proposition would hold true in general, rather than merely noting that it was true in a given experience.

    As I understand it, Hume's problem is that he's skeptical if we can make such a leap -- that is, even conjecture a reason why two experiences are both describable by at least some common propositions. Once we do two, we can do it for all N -- kind of as in the mathematical induction, where we say a regularity holds true in general as long as we can show how to go from a given one to a subsequent one.
    Basically we just can't do that without a leap would be my sense of Hume's issue. Maybe I can differentiate x^n (say for n>0/integer) for two successive values of n and show the nth derivative has a certain nice form (n!)....but until I can relate two such successive computations, I can't give a general expression which always holds.

    The real question is how comfortable one is with such a leap.

    I have a feeling what's at the bottom of all this is a discomfort Hume has with (apparent -- since one might not believe they exist) brute/contingent facts, as opposed to facts of pure logic (i.e.when not working in a formal setting like mathematics, one encounters questions like "why these laws of physics?"). Still, the latter aren't on absolutely secure ground, since there could be an inconsistency in one's foundations. However, at least there's the security that eventually we can know in principle if there is in fact a contradiction.
     
    #17 charlatan, Oct 14, 2017
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  18. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Hi! Thanks for your input!

    Although I agree we are looking for the underlying 'form' of a sense experience, I do not believe that this resolves the paradox. Remember, induction is a kind of reasoning in which the premises of an argument support a conclusion. In the case our hypothetical sunrise: induction is a kind of reasoning in which the 'form' of a sunrise is used to derive conclusions about future sunrises. We know a sunrise will occur in the future if we experience the same 'form' enough times. But what constitutes enough times? And how do we even know that we can extrapolate these experiences into the future? Is there some law of nature that gaurantees the truth, or even probable truth of an induction? Now you could argue: 'Well, induction is not really about truth. Hell it may not even be able probable truth. Induction is just a process that people use to make predictions about the future; regardless of whether they are actually true'. But by abandoning 'truth', you undermine its status of by reducing 'inductive inferences' to mere profesy. Inductive inferences, in this case, are no more enlightening than the profesys of The Oracle of Delphi. So then, inductive inferences really are about truth. Induction really does claim that it is possible to extrapolate true conclusions about the future from experience. In which case, we are left with the above question: how do we know that we can extrapolate past experiences into the future? Perhaps you have an answer?
    [/QUOTE]
     
  19. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Hi Charlatan, it's great to hear from you again!

    If I am understanding you correctly, what you are trying to say is: The only reason we can know that we have experienced the 'same event' more than once is because our explanations tell us so. We know we have experienced the event of a 'sunrise' more than once because our explanations of what a sunrise actually IS tell us so. Our theories tell us, among other things, which sensory experiences amount to having experienced a sunrise, and what it actually means to experience one in the first place. Without our explanations, we could never know that we have had the same experience more than once. Am I correct?
     
    #19 wolly.green, Oct 14, 2017
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  20. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    I can't say I agree with that, and I doubt that you commit to it either. If you conduct an experiment in which the same 'correlation' is observed 100 times out of 100, you may not be able to establish 'true' causation in absolute terms, but what you observe is definitely stronger than mere prophecy. You can't just have 'Truth' on one end and 'Oracle's Prophecy' on the other, with nothing in between.

    Also, how do you define truth? You know, from a Pragmatist's point of view, your abstract ideal of truth is just that, an ideal, and it is more useful to take truth as "what is so extremely likely to happen that it would be silly to claim the contrary". Commonsense is actually taken very seriously in the philosophy of causation. From the viewpoint of this particular school and its definition of truth, induction is not in danger.

    So yes - this makes me really aware of the fact that we can't take the meaning of truth for granted it here. Let's agree on a definition :) Also, why would inductive reasoning have to be 'true', supposing we arrive at that definition? Can't we just settle for the possibility of its being valid? In which case, the formal approach I sketched above might help us achieve validity; while what is not taken into account in the 'extremely likely to happen' might belong to pure, impossible-to-causally-define future contingency. It's quite possible that induction cannot achieve more than that, but I don't see this as weakening induction to any great extent, in practice.

    EDIT: if my phrasing is direct, it's of course just for the sake of clarity! I have no final answers on this question of induction, and I hope that we can all explore each others' ideas to hopefully get to surer ground.
     
    #20 Ren, Oct 14, 2017
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