[lit-ideas] Re: Back to Popper (and further back to Hume)

  • From: John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2006 23:28:51 -0600

Omar Kusturica wrote:

--- Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

Well, for the life of me, I see now argument. We are
given a sentence, 'All
swans are white,' and asked to 'test' it in light of
the following:

ou are given three boxes to test the proposition.
*In other words, Donal is asking us to defend
inductive probability (regardless of whether or not we
endorse it otherwise) on the basis of clearly
insufficient inductive evidence.

We are "given" what we are smart enough to take. By that I mean that it IS possible to make some headway about the contents of the third box, IF we know more about who set up the boxes, why, and how they have set up similar problems in the past. Of course all this is part of the problem of induction, but poker players bet against Hume and win every time (so far). Those "odds" may not pass the muster of logic, but they pass the muster of money. Anyway, in any game of chance, the other players often display some quirk, some "tell" that one can use to reduce probability to something more predictable than the odds would allow. If one ONLY takes the three boxes on face value, without looking at who set them up, one has far less to work with. But I'd be willing to bet that one can make some kinds of predictions of the contents of the third box based on the "tell" of the person creating the problem. Buddhists would LOVE a box full of nothing. Zoologists might be tempted to stuff a black swan into the third box just because people would then see what one looked like. (Of course, given that the first box contains a swan, we would already have a partial "tell." The person setting up the problem seems to have no compunctions about boxing swans, increasing the likelihood that the third box might contain swan too. If I thought that the person setting up the boxes was a naturalist that valued eco diversity, I might bet that the third box was swanless.

These particular examples may strike the reader as vacuous, but similar patters of thought could increase the probability of one kind of answer over the other, based not on the logic of induction, but based on an inductive knowledge of human beings.

"Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence and ignorance." -------------------------------------------------
John Wager                john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx
                                  Lisle, IL, USA

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