Essay VI

As usual, be sure you have read and understood the instructions. If you have any question, please don't hesitate to ask via GroupMe or by email to

Note that as with essay 5, this essay is worth 150 points. Similarly, since the question is likewise somewhat more involved, the range of number of words on this essay is extended from 500-750 to 500-1200.

In class Wednesday we examined the Problem of Induction by first distinguishing between Induction to a Generalization (IG), which we encountered at the start of the semester when we discussed the difference between inductive arguments and deductive arguments, and Induction to a Particular (IP), which seems to more closely mirror the everyday on-the-fly inductive inferences we make about about what we expect the world to be like given our experience to date of it. The problem, I suggested, can be boiled down to a simple argument:

The Problem of Induction
  1 If IP is a justifiable inference, then either IP is justified inductively or IP is justified deductively.  
  2 IP cannot be justified inductively.  
  3 IP cannot be justified deductively.  
4 IP is not a justifiable inference. 1,2, &3

Now consider the following scene: MacCruiskeen, a scientist, is watching the sunrise. She's accompanied by her close friend Pluck, a student of philosophy.

Pluck: Beautiful sunrise.

MacCruiskeen: Yes. And right on time, too.

Pluck: Yet there was no good reason to expect it to rise this morning.

MacCruiskeen: But the sun has risen every morning for millions of years. Of course it was going to rise this morning as well.

Pluck: There's no reason to suppose it will rise tomorrow, either. In fact, it's just as sensible to expect that a huge million-mile-wide bowl of tulips will appear on the horizon instead.

MacCruiskeen: I agree we can't be certain the sun will rise tomorrow. Some cataclysmic event might destroy the earth before then. But it's very unlikely that anything like that will happen. The probability is that the sun will rise, surely?

Pluck: You misunderstand me. I'm not just saying we can't be certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. I'm saying we have no more reason to suppose that it will rise than we have to suppose that it won't.

MacCruiskeen: That's absurd. The evidence—such as the fact that the sun has risen every morning for millions of years—overwhelmingly supports my belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, too.

Pluck: You're mistaken.

--Adapted from Law, S. 2003. "The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking." New York: St. Martin's Press.

To be sure, we all share MacCruiskeen's sentiment: Pluck's insistence that we have as much reason to believe the sun will rise tomorrow as we have to believe that "a huge million-mile-wide bowl of tulips will appear on the horizon instead" is, as she puts it, absurd.

Your task in this essay, however, is to defend Pluck as ably as you can. In particular, explain why Premise (2) in the Problem of Induction is true? That is, why can't IP be justified inductively? Further, why is Premise (3) true? That is, why couldn't we invoke the laws of nature or causation generally to deductively justify IP? [Hint: Recall for this latter question our discussion of Hume on causation and his notion of the constant conjunction of events.] Be sure to illustrate your explanations with specific, well-crafted examples.