Induction Glory Of Science But Philosophy Scandal Philosophy Essay

This essay discusses whether inductive reasoning is justifiable in both scienc

Environmental ethics is a hybrid of both ancient and recent insights and is a discipline in the making. In addition, this is a discipline whose time has come and has come urgently. The magnitude and urgency of contemporary environmental problems known as environmental crisis form the mandate for environmental ethics. In other words, environmental ethics is a re-examination of the human attitudes and values that influence individual behaviour and government policies towards nature. The principle approaches to environmental ethics are biocentrism, egocentrism. Other topics which are related are ecofeminism and deep ecology. Moral pluralism in environmental ethics insists that we endorse all of these approaches, and employ any one of them according to circumstances.

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Another long-standing controversy in the philosophy is the debate between methodological individualists and methodological holists. The former hold that social facts and phenomena are reducible without remainder to facts about individuals. The latter, advocates of methodological holism argue that there are some social facts that are not reducible to facts about individuals, and that social phenomena can sometimes be adequately explained without reference to individuals. One should take into consideration that there is no necessary connection between support for methodological individualism or holism and one’s position vis-à-vis the naturalism debate. Nonetheless there is a tendency that naturalist people embrace methodological individualism. Still, the naturalists are also found in the holist camp.

There are several philosophers who argue about individualistic environmental ethics. Two of them are Peter Singer and Tom Regan. The work of Singer and Regan generated a significant and critical response among philosophers. Many of these criticisms followed the same idea. Peter Singer is the one leading thinker who raised the profile of ethical reflection in relation to animals in our world. Some philosophers including Regan, challenge the utilitarian basis of Singer’s programme. Singer does not form any principle against causing animals to suffer. Singer argues that ‘humans are different from animals, so equal consideration does not entail equal or identical treatment. Further interest and suffering are not alike. Not all interests deserve to be treated equally, and not all suffering is created equal’ (Desjardins 2006, p.115).

According to Regan and Singer, we need to be very selective in our decisions regarding our everyday life, and we have to choose properly our type of lifestyle. We need to limit ourselves to eat meat so that we can conserve animals from the ecosystem. Moreover, both of them argue that we need to be vegetarian, and Singer continues that the boundary of considerability should be drawn somewhere ‘between shrimp and oyster’ (Desjardins 2006, p.116). On the other hand, Regan most often speaks in general terms about animals but he argues that the subject of a life criterion applies to ‘mentally normal mammals of a year or a more’ (Regan 1983, p.78). In my opinion, this is a very unrealistic view of the world because an ecosystem is made up of both humans and animals. If we all choose to be vegetarian than the ecosystem will be unbalanced, leading to an overpopulation of animals because animals will continue to produce without being reduced by humans. Moreover, I think that other species will take over the habitat of others because of the overpopulation and this may lead to many disasters. I believe that, people are part of an ecosystem in order that the world can be balanced accordingly. However, in certain cases we find several abuses-one of them being illegal hunting which causes many endemic species to become extinct. There should always be a balance.

Moreover, Regan argues that his right-based ethics, like most traditional ethical theories is individualistic. This means that ethics is concerned with protecting and promoting the well-being of individuals, not communities or societies or someone’s “common good”. This puts him at odds with many environmental and ecological thinking which is holistic where many environmentalists emphasise “biotic” communities or “ecosystems” rather than individual members which include humans of those communities. Regan warns us of environmental fascism in which individual rights are willingly sacrificed to the greater good of the whole. ‘Environmental fascism and the rights’ view are like oil and water: they don’t mix’ (Regan 1983, p.362, cited in Desjardins 2006, p.116).

In addition, Regan argues that only individual animals can be said to have moral standing or, more specifically, to have rights. In Regan’s view, an animal that is of an endangered species has no special moral status. Singer’s view recognizes that it is conceivable that human interference could improve the conditions of wild animals. Moreover, he recommends a policy of leaving wild animals alone as much as possible. In fact he states that ‘we do enough if we eliminate our own unnecessary killing and cruelty towards other animals’ (Singer 1990, p.227 as cited in Donaldson and Kymlicka 2011, p.159). Singer argues that we have the greater responsibility of reducing suffering than that to increase happiness. In addition, Regan endorsed the similar idea proposed by Singer that is, as long as we protect the rights of animals, other ecological concerns will take care of themselves. In my opinion, it is not a selective choice to let extinct species become endemic because they are part of the ecosystem for quite a good reason. I think that if those endangered species become endemic than other species cannot benefit from their benefits that contribute to the ecosystem. This is because specie in every community serves to be a prey and also, in itself, it is a predator. If this specie becomes endemic than the prey cannot eat it anymore, and the specie itself cannot kill other animals. The ecosystem is always like a chain in which one factor contributes to the other factor and in which every single step is important for the ecosystem.

I believe that, we need first to reverse the long history of destruction and habitat loss before we could preserve biotic communities. In addition, the idea that some “untamed wilderness” untouched by human activities is a mirage. No place on earth, no animal on earth and no period on earth has escaped human influence for quite some time. The question is not whether we should actively influence the wilderness but how we should do so. For Singer and Regan it seems that the paradigms of holders of moral values are human beings. Thus only animals that are like us can have moral standing. Moral standing seems a benefit that is derived from human nature and that living beings receive only if they are similar to human beings.

On the other hand, there are several philosophers who have different ideas about the holistic idea of the environment such as Rolston Holmes and J. Baird Callicott. A holistic idea of the environment deals with environments that must focus their moral concern on the interdependent functioning of the entirely ecological system and not merely on the isolated individuals who make up the system. Holmes as a representative of most environmental ethics encourages us to recognize the inherent worth of nature. According to him, an emphasis on intrinsic value, would preclude the development of a holistic environmental ethic. In fact he argues that ‘the ‘for what it is in itself facet of intrinsic becomes problematic in a holistic web. It is too internal and elementary; it forget relatedness and externality’ (Holmes 1982, p.146). Holmes has argued that nature should not be treated as a mere resource to be used but rather as a source of what we value. In fact he states ‘One is not so much looking to resources as sources, seeking relationships is an elemental stream of being with transcending integrities’ (Holmes 1983, p.183). For Holmes nature as a source of value is then itself intrinsically valuable.

Holmes believed that one has to spent time with nature to be an environmentalist. Wilderness is nature which has never been locked and framed is rare. Nature is something that has been through biological processes. We do own gratitude towards biodiversity. Another thing which we value in nature is autopoeisis which means self-making. Many philosophers have argued that this defines life. Life is able to come to a certain extent. Beauty and integrity mean that it has not been whole. Holmes believed that man does not fit in nature. However, in my opinion this is not correct because we came out of wilderness. Many environmental philosophers take up the value and try to see where it comes from.

Holmes understands that one has to consider the laws of nature. Holmes argues that it can be good to follow nature but also bad to follow nature. He argues that it is bad when you follow it too much. Humans also damage and modify the environment. Holmes says that this is not natural because we move things around too much. Non-human beings do not modify their environment the way that we do. According to Holmes, anything that completely upsets the balance is not natural and therefore wrong.

Like Holmes, Callicott is suspicious of ethical preoccupations with individual nonhuman creatures. Callicott does not deny the fact that individual creatures can have a place as individuals in the sphere of ethical regard. However, he argues that, it is not their well-being as individuals that should be our concern. Rather, it is the well-being of the biotic community of which they are a part and to which they contribute. Callicott insists that ‘environmental ethics locates ultimate value in the ‘biotic community’ and assigns differential moral value to the constitutive individuals relative to the standards’ (Callicott 1980, p.337).

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The systems of individuals – ecosystems, species and communities – might be a more proper focus than those individuals themselves. One of the motivating concerns, theoretically and practically, is that we should place value on the organization of systems and communities. Following Leopold, J.Baird Callicott argues that ‘there is intrinsic value in the integrity, stability and beauty of ecological systems’ (Callicott 1989, p.83).

Balancing the apparent need to value systems as well as individuals has served to generate a different set of normative principles. Callicott considers this to be an entirely new ethic which will be considered below. Klonoski (1991) in his paper about Callicott holism also presents Callicott’s argument about environmental ethic holism. He points out Callicott’s idea that in ‘order of the biotic community and to assign value and to prescribe legitimate use of the constituents of the community in a way that contributes to the unity, harmony and balance of the eco-system’ (Callicott U.d, as cited in Klonoski 1991, p.99). But the problem of shaping a value theory such that it can accommodate both individualistic value and systemic value is daunting.

Callicott’s holism was criticised due to insufficient room for any intrinsic value apart from the value of the system. Callicott sustains that ‘human activities, such as agriculture and suburban and exurban development, provide some organisms with excellent habitat. But the habitats of many other organisms are severely degraded by the cultural modifications of landscapes that characterize contemporary industrial civilization. These organisms need places that are otherwise suitable for them where modifications of that kind are prohibited’ (Callicott 2000, p.29). Callicott’s system is monistic; there is only one value, instantiated in a principle that has moral weight.

Another philosopher who had a clear idea about environmental ethics is Arne Naess who had the “idea of self-realization”. This means that the ideal of developing one’s highest potential skews the notion of value not only towards living entities but also towards those that are analogues of human beings. In my opinion, I do agree with this idea because one has to self-realise him/herself in order to be able to live in a community. In addition, if this does not happen, one does not take care of the environment and of what happens around us. We should take care of the environment because once it is exploited it takes a longer time to revert to its original state. However, this is not an issue that all people agree with because, most often, people do exploit what they have and then this result in different consequences.

I believe that, the ecosystem should be made up of both humans and animals. In addition, I think that each specie has an important role to play in the ecosystem, and this is because each specie has its advantages and disadvantages in the ecosystem. If, over a period of time, there is any endemic specie, then there should be another specie which takes its role. However, most often this does not happen and this leads to different disasters. A clear example of what I am stating is when in Malta there was a type of insect – the red weevil – that was imported with foreign palm trees inferring. This showed that they were not being eaten by other animals, and thus they did a lot of damage to the Maltese palm trees. A specie in an ecosystem is like a link in a whole chain and if one link is broken the chain is broken too!

I do disagree with Regan’s idea that an endemic species should not be protected. In fact I argue that we should spend some time with nature like Rolston suggests in order to admire how precious our environment is. Moreover, I think that there should be more emphasis on man’s responsibility. When someone comes in contact with nature he should make sure that it should be kept as it was found because once it is exploited the effects are disastrous. It is difficult to reverse the damage and bring back nature to its original state. In my opinion the holistic view of environmental biases is more practical especially in our everyday world.

There are different views of how one can respect the environment around us. The most important thing is that we do our outmost to leave part of the environment in its natural state without construction because it is our contribution to those that come after us. Most often people do not even notice how little things can harm species, not only on the earth but also marine species which are also an important part of the ecosystem. In my opinion, although nowadays there are more environmental organisations there should be more awareness of how our modelling with the eco system can affect nature around us. God created nature in order to be used but also to be protected accordingly.


e and philosophy in order to provide a qualitative analysis on the topic given. It first gives a simple introduction of Hume’s problem of induction and clarifies some key definitions used in this essay. In the body paragraph, this article provides several evidences and arguments to support the thesis to a certain extent. It illustrates the contributions of inductive reasoning done to the field of science, meanwhile it also shows that problem of induction is still an ongoing dispute among contemporary philosophers. With the aid of some examples, this essay also illustrates many counter-arguments to refute the thesis. It also points out that the glory today may change to scandal tomorrow, and vice versa. In the conclusive part, the article agrees with the thesis question to a large extent but it also leaves some room for opposite opinion to stand.

‘Induction is the Glory of Science but the Scandal of Philosophy’. Discuss.

The thesis is based on the oft-quoted aphorism by C.D. Broad in year 1926. These well-known words had summarized the key conflict of the inductive methodology between science and philosophy. In the field of science, especially empirical science, inductive reasoning has long been the most effective and dominating method widely applied. It seems to remain the fact that induction is capable to make science triumphant in the future and evermore. On the other hand, the “problem of induction”, first introduced by David Hume in the eighteenth century, had been under heated debate among philosophers and natural scientists for centuries. Numbers of philosophers have made lots of effort in solving the problem but in the end there are still no commonly accepted answers to it, although some inspired attempts had been made to solve this problem. It is undeniable that the problem of induction has puzzled philosophers ever since its first day. These facts did tell us that inductive reasoning had been beneficial to science but problematic to philosophy, but it also would mislead us to a cursory agreement with “induction is the glory of science but scandal of philosophy” without proper analysis. Therefore in this essay, a further discussion will be given based on the problem of induction.

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Before any formal discussions, the meaning of induction has to be clearly elucidated to remove any confusion in this essay. Although the so-called “problem of induction” was posed by Hume, the term “induction” appeared rarely in any of his published books, journals and papers. Traditionally, Aristotle denoted “induction” as a progression from particulars to a universal. But Hume mainly used “inference” instead of “induction” and gave a broader meaning to it which includes all the non-demonstrative reasoning founded on experience (Hume, D., 1777). Inductive reasoning here means reasoning about matters of fact. Briefly speaking, induction could even help people derive unobserved fact from the observed instances. Suppose that we have observed numerous objects with property X and all of them also have property Y, it is natural or even instinctive for us to conclude that all objects with X also possess Y including those objects with property X that have yet to be observed. A famous example can be seen from: All Ravens examined so far are black, so we can conclude that all Ravens are black or the next Raven to be examined will be black. Moreover, self-evident statements (axioms) were excluded from the usage of induction. The conclusion of such reasoning is logically implied by the premises, such as self-defined statement “No bachelor is married”, complete enumeration “1+1=2” and so on. Hence in my discussion, the usage of “induction” is the same as Hume’s of “inference”.

Almost all the sciences, from main streams to side branches, have been adopting inductive reasoning as one of the most important and fundamental methodologies. Empirical scientists even used to believe that induction was the only way to discover and answer so many “What”s and “Why”s. The famed Caltech physicist Richard Feynman lauded induction in saying that, “Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth'” (Feynman et al, 1963) Together with deduction, inductive method had really made loads of contributions to the scientific area in the modern world. The basis of scientific method is making observations, sometimes in the form of experiments. When the observation is confirmed by many competent observers, it can become a fact. A scientific hypothesis must not only link existing observations and facts, but suggest new observations (predictions). If a hypothesis that describes/explains how nature works survives many experimental tests (observations), it may become a law/theory. The above depiction, though is oversimplified, has summarized the key steps of how inductive reasoning works as a scientific method. Observation of nature is the authority in scientific studies, therefore “the sun will always rise tomorrow” for scientists.

However, for many philosophers and logicians, tomorrow might be completely dark without sunrise. Ever since he posed his problem of induction, Hume believed that it was unjustifiable to presuppose that future (unknown) will be similar to the past (known). He also argued that no inductive argument is able to ever justify uniformity of nature because every inductive argument employs uniformity of nature as a premise (Hume, D., 1777). To a large extent, this problem remains to be a scandal of philosophy because there is still no solution in sight nor even a consensus about what a possible solution could look like, although we believe we understand Hume’s problem much better today. Along the history, there were many famous and brilliant thinkers trying to justify induction and bring back this glory to philosophy. For example, some philosophers had argued that the inductive premise can be supported by inductive evidence. Frederick L. Will agreed that past observations can serve as an evidence for its authenticity by pointing out a concealed ambiguity on the word “future” in the problem of induction (Wills, F. 1947). However, this response to the problem is entirely unsatisfactory as rebutted by BonJour stating that proving induction premises inductively would lead to an infinite regress in which the actual justification of the first-level induction is indefinitely deferred (BonJour, L. 1998).

Inductive reasoning is an instinctive action of human logic system. Human beings have been adopting inference, sometimes called educated guess, for ages even before they realized its underlying problem. It has been so many years for us to apply induction as an obstinate habit regardless of how the human race began, evolved from apes or created by the God. A case in point can be seen from the famous remarks of Rene Descartes that “it is truth very certain that, when it is not in our power to determine what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable” (Lafleur, J. 1960). This celebrated quote was defended more recently by Wesley Salmon in order to provide a reasonable justification from a pragmatic point of view (Salmon, W. 1978). Wesley pointed out that it is a wiser “bet” to choose inductive reasoning than any other experience-based methods, because inductive logic has a higher chance of success compared to other alternative means as long as the inductive principle is true. This response to the problem seems to be creative and rational; nevertheless, in my point of view, it is still improper. The statement is pragmatically correct but it does not imply an epistemic justification. This means, while it may serve as an incentive for us to think inductively, it still does not show the actual successful rate of induction. That is to say, the number of observed cases is always finite and that of unobserved ones is possibly infinite, hence the probability may never reach anything close to unity. A real solution to get rid of this scandal requires an epistemic justification. It still remains a fact that no satisfactory solutions have been drawn to justify inductive inferences; in this sense, induction is still the scandal of philosophy.

There are numerous criticisms as well as praises heaped upon the inductive reasoning, but we will be blind from the other side of the coin if we completely accept the opinions from a single side. The answer to the problem of induction is uncertain; this determines that we have to believe it with a skeptical attitude. Ironically, it is paradoxical to conclude that induction is still the glory of science and scandal of philosophy in the future, because we could not look at the past to predict the future.

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As mentioned previously, inductive logic seems like the most effective way to perform science. Very often, scientific experiments work in an opposite fashion. Albert Einstein commented that “the really great progress of natural science arose in a way which is almost diametrically opposed to induction” (Einstein, A. 1919). If this is true, is the induction still a glory of science? To a certain extent, inductive inference may slow down the scientific development. For instance, in early days many scientists were reluctant to accept the fact of discovery of a positron (positively charged electron), as their inference told them that electron could only be negatively charged in order to balance with the positively charged nucleus and make the whole atom neutral. Inductive reasoning therefore hinders people from thinking outside the box. When a new observation violates the old principles which are established on past experience, the first thing on one’s mind is to question and even reject this observation. The chemical composition of water now is H2O but no one can be absolutely certain that this composition will not change in the future, say a million years’ time. The water at that time is possibly in the form of X2Y-only God knows. This may turns out to be that no scientific theory based on induction can be absolutely true but only tentatively validated. It is not rare that induction might lead to underdetermination thesis, especially in the scientific study of some unknown instances. The point can be demonstrated by the following example: There is a sequence 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…, what will be the next number? We may guess inductively that the 6th number is 12, and this intuitive assumption is based on our inference from the common sense of arithmetic sequence. However, such educated guess is extremely risky if no “true” premise is given in advance, e.g. the 6th number could be 132 as well if the sequence follows as f(n)=2n+(n-1)(n-2)(n-3)(n-4)(n-5). In other words, this example of the mathematical formula illustrates that there can be infinite number of distinct futures to be found on the basis of an identical past. The reality is crueler for empirical science than that for mathematics. Mathematics deals with relations of ideas so that concrete premises and conclusions could be derived from various methods such as contradiction. But the essence of empirical science is matters of fact-nothing is capable of certifying the given premise. In empirical science, the premise of an inductive argument can never warrant its conclusion, so it is still finitely possible that, inductive logic may cease to become the glory of science right after tomorrow.

It is apparent in the foregoing discussion that no ultimate vindication has been provided to free induction from the scandal of philosophy. But a complete denial of the inductive reasoning from a philosophical perspective must be cursory and inadequate. I am not fully convinced by Hume’s conclusion to the problem of induction, which has stated that we have no good reason to justify the induction. Personally I do acknowledge the difficulties in solving the problem, but I strongly believe that it is not insurmountable. Similar to the progress of proving Goldbach Conjecture by mathematicians, the problem of induction may be conquered by philosophers someday in the future. The principle of the uniformity of nature is not a simple conception that can be proven in finite steps. Before we can thoroughly interpret this principle, it is only a belief or even a faith for us. In fact, Euclidean geometry and Newtonian mechanics, before the discovery of the more updated and advanced theories (Non-Euclidean geometry and Einstein’s relativity), were all kinds of scientific beliefs. Mankind was born and designed to think inductively (also deductively). This nature of human beings, to a certain extent, determines that inductive reasoning is reasonable in the eyes of Mother Nature. Although problem of induction has been an unsolved riddle in philosophy, inductive reasoning had provided considerable amount of topics to be studied by philosophers. A very well-known lemma in point was by Rene Descartes: Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), which was based on inductive reasoning. Today there are many philosophers like Descartes who are applying inductive method to the study and understanding of philosophical issues. Therefore it is probable for philosophy to embrace the inductive method in a day not far away.

Last but not least, if there is a way to evade the problem of induction, then it would become pointless to distinguish between glory and scandal. Karl Popper (Popper, K. 1979) raised such arguments stating that science, instead of being inductive, proceeds only deductively by “conjectures and refutations”. He also listed down some non-sciences, such as Astrology and Alchemy, to counter the argument of “the hallmark of science is observation”. If this is true, induction would no longer be the glory of science since science is free of induction from this perspective. But Popper’s response contributed so little to the justification of inductive reasoning because it was actually begging the question rather than solving it. The problem of induction asks whether it is reliable to predict future occasions on the basis of past events, while Popper indicated that scientific theories or predictions can be demonstrated to be wrong by former observations.

From the foresaid arguments, I have shown that attitudes towards the inductive reasoning may vary from one extreme to another. With further analysis of each response, almost all of them can fall into the three prevail categories: first, approve Hume’s conclusion as a basis for skepticism; second, find suitable approaches to strengthen inductive arguments; third, oppose to the construction of the “problem of induction”. None of these stands is absolutely correct or essentially wrong, since there is no flawless argument to solve or dissolve the problem of induction. But I am a person who inclines to take the skeptical point of view. From our past experience, induction might be the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy, and the only thing I can conclude is that this situation will be very likely unchanged but there is still a chance to overturn. No matter what the result is, we will not stop ourselves from reasoning inductively because it has been an unjustifiable habit for us to assume the future will resemble the past. In conclusion, it is regrettably to say that there currently has no feasible solutions to the problem of induction, but this does not mean that all the effort put into is going to be futile. Maybe someday inductive reasoning is justified so that we could confidently yell out “induction is the glory of both science and philosophy”.


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