How Science Might Support Smart’s Theory

In “Sensations and Brain Processes” by J.J. Smart, Smart argues that sensations are brain processes. This thesis claims “that in so far as a sensation statement is a report of something, that something is a brain process” (Smart 145). The use of the word “is,” in this particular case, refers to strict identity. This does not mean that the two entities are simply continuous in time and space, this “is” also means it “is identical with” in the strict sense, which must be clearly distinguished from the other kind of “is” that labels things that are identical to each other only in that they are time slices of the same four-dimensional object.

In order to support his thesis, Smart presents multiple objections to his thesis and then goes on to reply to these objections in order to strengthen his thesis. For example, the fourth objection is, “The after-image is not in physical space. The brain process is. So the after-image is not a brain-process” (Smart 150). His answer to this objection is that the experience of having an after-image is a brain process because it is reported in the introspective report. Smart thinks of retorts such as this to dismiss any possible objection to this theory and he does this pretty successfully. I, personally, could not think of another question or objection to his theory that he had not already answered. In fact, I believe that Smart’s theory is correct for reasons that are more scientific than philosophical.

Scientifically, Smart is correct. Any sensation that one could experience is a brain process. From sight to touch to pain to hearing, all sensations must be processed by the brain in order to be perceived. And as Smart says, the brain process itself is not a “yellowy-orange” something, but it is the experience of having that “yellowy-orange” something, and “there is such a thing as the experience of having an image, and this experience is described indirectly in material object language, not in phenomenal language, for there is no such thing” (151).

For example, in terms of vision, when you perceive that you are seeing something, light rays are reflected off objects and enter the eye through the cornea, which is the transparent front part of the eye that does most of the focusing by bending the light that passes through the pupil. This leads the light to the retina, which is the layer of tissue at the back of the eye containing photoreceptors and neural circuitry. There are two main types of photoreceptors in the retina: rods and cones. Both rods and cones turn the light into electrical signals, which the optic nerve sends directly to the brain. The primary visual cortex in the occipital lobe of the brain then perceives these signals into images. I learned this process in my neuroscience class and it applies to Smart’s theory because it scientifically shows that sensations are brain processes.

My question for the class is, is there a way you think that science could undermine Smart’s theory? If not, is there another challenge you would like to make to his theory?

Human Mind vs. Alternate Mind

In the section on functionalism, Churchland describes an alien life form that contains an alien psychological constitution.  This alien’s constitution is based on the element silicon, not carbon.  Now silicon acts the same as carbon due to its position on the periodic table, yet it is still different than carbon (number of protons, neutrons, etc.).  Churchland states that this alien brain, “can sustain a functional economy of internal states whose mutual relations perfectly parallel the mutual relations that define [human’s] mental states” (Churchland 36).  This means that the alien brain that is made up of different material than ours, can act similarly as ours does.  If that is the case, and those mental states are causally connected to inputs that parallel our on connections, then “the alien could have pains, desires, hopes, and fears just as we do, despite the differences is physical system that sustains…those functional states” (Churchland 36-37).  This means that there can exist life forms of a certain makeup that can have a consciousness and don’t have to be made up of the same material that we are made up of.

Churchland then extends his argument to artificial systems.  He states, “were we to create an electronic system-a computer of some kind-whose internal economy was functionally isomorphic with our [constitution] in all the relevant ways, then it too would be the subject of mental states” (Churchland 37).  If you think you’ve seen this before, you’d be right.  It’s very similar to the substrate-independence thesis we talked about while analyzing Bostrom’s computer simulation argument.  It basically states that “mental states can supervene on any of a broad class of physical substrates” (Bostrom 2).  Now this ‘broad class of physical substrates’ can extend to alien life (as I discussed in the first paragraph) or artificial intelligence as Bostrom has discussed in his paper.  Bostrom just assumes the fact to be true in his argument, but what if it was actually physically possible to design a computer (or something of similar data running capacity) to be isomorphic in functionality with our own personal design?  Now it seems weird, I know, but we already have robots that can perceive human expression, and display distinct emotion based on the context of the interaction.

I would also like to add that us as humans like to think of ourselves as superior beings in the world, yet if we look specifically at our brains and compare them to other animals’ brains, our nervous center of our brain is only slightly more complex than that of other animals.  In addition, our brain’s weight in proportion to an average human’s weight is not the greatest among all the animal species.  Is it not logically possible than that there could exist other animals besides humans who could think, feel and perceive the world just as we do?  Could other animals not also have a consciousness?  We generally don’t think about this because we can’t communicate with other animals.  There is no real reason why animals can’t have a consciousness, as consciousness is a private matter, no one else can know if another has a consciousness (though everyone else besides you could potentially be a zombie, but that’s for another time).  We also assume animals can’t have a consciousness because we have both domesticated many of them, and feel we can control just about all of the animal species out there.  This, simply put, is human arrogance at its highest.

What this all means is that “there are almost certainly many more ways than one for nature…to put together a thinking, feeling, perceiving creature” (Churchland 37).  My question to you is do you think it is possible to have computers, or find life forms, or something not of our constitution that can think, feel, perceive, or have a general consciousness?


Additional sites used:


Our Mind and Body

In the article, Ryle disputes Descartes’s belief. Descartes believes that a person’s mind and body is separated. Ryle is trying to dispute the official doctrine that he states like this: “With the doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.” (Ryle, 23) He also regards this official doctrine as “ghost in the machine”. Ryle challenges Descartes’s belief by pointing out that the whole official doctrine is a category-mistake. Ryle does several illustrations such as: a foreigner visiting a campus guiding by a student. The library, admission office, museum are all shown to him by the student. But in the end he asks: “Where is the university?” The category-mistake can also be described as: I show my friend a picture of my family. I told her which is my dad, which is my mom and which is my sister. However, in the end she ask me: “ So who is the family?” Ryle points out that Descartes is mixing two things that are on different logical levels and he assumes that these two things are on the same logical level.

According to the official doctrine, I will be able to know my mental state right away. For example, if I hope some one is going to pick me up after class since it is raining and I forgot to bring the umbrella, I will know it immediately since this is my own mental state. Furthermore, no one else is able to know it directly since this is my own private mental state. When I was waiting for some one to pick me up I saw some one standing in the lobby. I heard this person saying that: “I hope some one is going to pick me up.” and “why I left my umbrella at home.” I also saw this person looking at his watch frequently, walking back and forth. I will think that he is in the same situation with me and he is also hoping some one will pick him up. But what I used to deduce his situation all based on public behaviors and I have no clue and will never be able to know what he is thinking in his mind. On the official doctrine, the mental states of other are forever hidden to me and I will have no way to get to know them. According to this, we can say that it is impossible to tell the difference between a man and a robot (Ryle 29) since all we see are the public side of the others and we can’t tell whether they are faking it or not. Just like the person I thought was experiencing the same situation with me might be faking to say those words and do those actions. If we say so, it will be impossible to define some one as idiots. It will be impossible for the hospital to tell whether this patient has mental disorder or not. Or can we say that the patient who we think having mental disorder actually does not and it should be us who have the problem?


What Happens to Free Will?

In “Descartes’ Myth” by Gilbert Ryle, Ryle focuses on the body and mind being connected to make the body function. Ryle recognizes the difference between mind and body: the body houses the mind but the two are not controlled by the same actions—the correlation is not always understood. One can see the physical aspects of another person’s body but can never truly understand what is going on within a person’s mind. The body takes up space, but does the mind?

When someone claims to know something, the verb denotes an occurrence of a stream of consciousness. This definition is not the same for everyone, though. For example, I can claim to know calculus and the process of Rolle’s Theorem. The way I “know” the Theorem may not be the exact same way that someone else “knows” the Theorem. We could have different learning mechanisms that lead us to the same conclusion, but we reach those conclusions through different thought processes.

This information leads to Ryle’s falsification of Descartes’s idea of ‘The Ghost in the Machine.’ Ryle claims that Descartes makes “one big mistake… a category-mistake.” Ryle rejects Descartes’s idea based off the fact that the idea attempts to describe mental processes through physical ones. Ryle argues that the categorical mistakes stem from people not knowing how to understand specific concepts such as “University, division, and team spirit” (page 27.) These categorical mistakes are often made when a person understands the word (the physical) and can apply the concept of a word, but not in every situation i.e. where is the team spirit? Can you see it? Ryle’s goal is to describe thought processes and thinking and feeling as “counterpart idioms” rather than categorical ideas—they are connected.

What is important to note, is that Ryle rejects idea of free will. He argues that free will stems from the acceptance or rejection of someone’s moral actions. If someone is not able to actually know the exact processes of what is going on in someone else’s mind, then how can the morality of an action be determined? Furthermore, how can we determine what insanity, stupidity or intelligence is if the thought processes and mental states cannot be seen? Psychology aims to connect the widespread ideas of these words, but in an individual, mental states could be very different. Ryle reaches the conclusion that in order for our actions to be considered free, they must be moral (Doyle.)

This idea, therefore, would falsify the idea in court that someone committed a crime due to his or her mental states. If our society rejected the use of mental insanity excuses (for lack of a better word) in court, it would no longer be acceptable to argue against or for someone’s sanity. Instead, legal systems would have to focus on the morality of someone’s actions in order to determine the thought processes of the criminal and the actions that the criminal should be punished for.

Below, I have included a cartoon that shows people in a lounge as “puppets.” The cartoon pokes fun at the idea of free will, or better yet, the lack of free will.

Additionally, please click here to watch a video explaining Ryle’s argument.


Doyle, Robert O. “Gilbert Ryle.” The Information Philosopher. Dr. Robert O Doyle, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <>.

The Body and Mind: A Blended Whole

In “Descartes Myth”, Ryle suggests the origins of the official doctrine regarding the relationship between the body and mind comes from Descartes’ attempt at fitting human nature into the newly developing ideas of science.  Descartes assumed that the body and mind are negatives that parallel each other.  Because of this, a systematic design is formed and free will becomes impossible; “…bodies are rigidly governed by mechanical laws, it seemed to many theorists to follow that minds must be similarly governed by rigid non-mechanical laws… Bodies cannot help the modifications that they undergo, so minds cannot help pursuing the careers fixed for them. Responsibility, choice, merit and demerit are therefore inapplicable concepts” (Ryle, 28). However, Ryle counters this by arguing that it is too quickly assumed that the mind and body are separate, naming it a “category-mistake”.

A category mistake persists when a person is not able to recognize a whole but just the parts that make it up.  For example, a person was told that they were going to be shown a beautiful multimedia collage and then is subsequently shown the different pieces of fabric and other materials that make up the collage.  After, the person asks, “But where is the collage?”, not understanding that all of those pieces that she was just shown was actually what made up the collage.  Ryle believes that instead of jumping to quickly to the assumption that the mind and body are two separate entities, they should be analyzed in terms of how they are correlated.  As follows, a person is not simply the sum of two parts but a blend of both mind and body, which does not necessarily act according to a predetermined system, but has morals that also drive and mold them.

The mind and the body can both have processes; however, the word “process” is equivocal.  “I am not, for example, denying that there occur mental processes. Doing long division is a mental process and so is making a joke. But I am saying that the phrase ‘there occur mental processes’ does not mean the same sort of thing as ‘there occur physical processes’, and, therefore, that it makes no sense to conjoin or disjoin the two” (Ryle, 30).  The mind may include processes, but strict scientific laws do not set these processes, they are processes that are adapted through a course that is unique to the person and their individual characteristics.  This idea of different types of systems opens the door for free will.

This distinction between free will and the idea that a person does not have control over how they act in Ryle’s “Descartes Myth” is similar to the distinction set forth by A.J. Ayer in his essay Freedom and Necessity.  In Ayer’s essay he contrasts the arguments of predestination with that of freedom of will.  Predestination is the idea that all acts have already been decided and people do not the ability to change them.  In both predestination and Descartes’ theory of how the body works, a person is not able to implement personal choice, which the opponent, free will, offers.

Gilbert Ryle is identified as a behaviorist.  “A behaviorist, so understood, is a psychological theorist who demands behavioral evidence for any psychological hypothesis” (  Behaviorism adheres to the claim that psychology is the science of behavior, not the science of mind.   Behavior is what exists externally and is evidence of mental events.  This aligns with “Descartes Myth”, both disputing the idea that the events of the mind are private.  More specifically, Gilbert Ryle is classified as an analytical behaviorist.  The idea of analytical behaviorism is that mental concepts can be evident through behavior.  This plays back to the idea that a person can be governed by morals and merit and other characteristics that are choices of the person, as mentioned by Ryle.  All these concepts that a person believes in can be reflected through their behavior.  This idea again leads to the conclusion that the body and the mind are intermingled and reflective of a person and what they value.

Additional Sources:

Graham, George, “Behaviorism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

The body and the mind: how are they connected?

The overall question dealt with in the readings is concerned with addressing how the mind and body are connected. The identity theory described by Churchland is what Ryle argues against in his paper “Descartes’ Myth.” Ryle calls it the “category-mistake” because philosophers attempt to use the same terminology used for physiological differences in the same way that they attempt to describe mental states. Ryle coins the term “Ghost in the machine” as minds take on this spectral, separate physical quality within the machine that is the body.

Approaching this way may seem off-putting since we know that minds and bodies are connected. One’s own thoughts and decisions determine the way in which one’s body moves, though this can be done subconsciously as with the knee-jerk reflex. However, the exact connection is not fully understood.

In terms of neuroscience, which Churchland addresses, we know that certain parts of the brain control specific bodily functions. In some cases, it has been elucidated in modern neuroscience research the specific pathways that control certain functions down to the molecule. I struggle with what the exact issue is here. Churchland notes the argument here:

“…some have argued that it is senseless to ascribe the various semantic properties to brain states. Our thoughts and beliefs, for example, have a meaning, a specific propositional content; they are either true or false; and they can enjoy relations such as consistency and entailment. If thoughts and beliefs were brain states, then all these semantic properties would have to be true of brain states.”

It can be argued that one cannot have a mind if one does not have a brain. If the brain is destroyed, then one no longer has a mind. This can be seen in patients who are lobotomized and become (for lack of a better term) vegetables. The mind and body are connected via the brain, a physical object in which something metaphysical (the mind) manifests itself. It acts as a sort of medium by which the mind can then lead to bodily changes. Effects on the brain can have negative (or positive) effects on the body. We know that the hippocampus is critical for the formation of new memories, the amygdala controls emotions, especially anger and fear, and a lack or over-abundance of neurotransmitters can cause deficits in motion (as in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diease). And all of this is connected by millions of neurons that synapse onto other neurons and release specific neurochemicals at the right place, at the right time. It is not hard to reconcile such advances to the connection of brain states to mind states.

However, in terms of identity theory, brain states cannot be exactly the same as mind states. They can undoubtedly be strongly correlated to one another, but arguing that they are one and the same comes across as difficult due to both the semantic argument and the effect of outside influences such as one’s environment, etc. on one’s thoughts and beliefs. Brain states are not the only influence on mind states and while there can be obvious changes in brain states due to outside influences (such as drugs), others can be not quite so obvious. For example, two individuals could have similar brain states, but different mind states. Which is why I would argue that they are connected, but not the same. This can then avoid the problem of semantics that those against identity theory focus on in their argument.

There is definitely merit to the argument that we can never really know if others share minds like us. One quote really hits this nail on the head: “Absolute solitude is on this showing the ineluctable destiny of the soul. Only our bodies can meet.”  This quote really captures the essence of what having both a mind and body connected in such a unique way entails. It goes along with “We live as we dream, alone.” This brings us back to the argument that one does not know if perhaps one is the only conscious being and one is surrounded by zombies (as noted by Bostrom in his simulation argument).

An interesting view on subconscious and conscious thought is presented by the popular Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, who depicts the subconscious as this inner sphere within the conscious sphere in his novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. It is imperative that this inner sphere remains untouched and uninhibited. In his novel, the subconscious is essentially this inner world of which the bearer (or the body) remains completely oblivious to. This is simply food for thought. It’s a different way of thinking about how the mind itself is organized.

Is the mind distinct from the body?

In Descartes’ Myth, Gilbert Ryle states that the central principles of the doctrine from Descartes, which explain the relationship between the body and the mind, are unsound. According to Ryle, Descartes’ belief makes a “category mistake” by putting “the mind and body in the same logical type or category when they actually belong to another” (Ryle). Ryle believes that although the body exists in space and time, the mind only exists in time and not space. Therefore, there is a distinction between mind and body. Also, as a behaviorist, Ryle believed that the mind was not something behind the behavior of the body; the mind was part of that physical behavior.

The category mistake is when one incorrectly categorizes something as if it belonged to a different group. For example, if I go around the campus telling everyone that my pain is red, this idea is false because pain cannot have a color “blue.” Since the feeling of “pain” and the color “blue” does not belong to the same logical type, this can be seen as a category mistake.

Additionally, contrary to our classroom discussion of free will, Ryle is completely against the belief of Descartes’. He believes that the problem of free will was that the idea of “free will” was made as an excuse. In another words, free will was invented to answer the moral responsibility and ethical actions of what is right and wrong. He also states that since the mind is an entity outside and not related to the body, there cannot be free will. If the body is separate from the mind, then how can each and every human being think and act differently? Ryle’s view of free will gives a different view of the question asked in class: “if someone commits chains of murder, do we put the murderer into jail concluding that he or she is a maniac?” The answer will be no, since the mind is separate from the body.

There is another philosopher who agrees with Ryle’s beliefs. Arthur Koestler published a non-fiction book that discussed the view that the mind is not related to the body and is temporarily inhibiting in the body (NYTimes).  Koestler gives an example of the evolution of the human brain. As the brain evolved, they have improved upon earlier, primitive brain structures.

On the contrary, the identity theory discussed by Churchland rejects Ryle’s beliefs. Identity theorists believe that the “mental state” is the same as “brain states.” However, Ryle would accuse this belief as a “category mistake,” since the mind is abstract and information is not matter. This can be also known as the “Ghost in the Machine,” a term that Ryle uses to poke fun at identity theorists, which implies that physical body is like a machine that is controlled by a nonphysical, ghostly mind.

After reading from proponents of different spectrum, what do you think?



Fleck, Susan. “Behaviorism and Identity Theory.” Behaviourism & Identity Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Lifton, Robert. “Man As Mistake.” The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web.

Science Can’t Find Your Soul

The most compelling aspect of Ryle’s article was his “Ghost in the Machine” argument, which attacks Descartes’ belief that the only definite evidence for our existence can be determined by thought and thinking – which only requires an immaterial mind, and not necessarily a material body, so the two must be separate. Ryle attacks this idea that the mind deserves its own category separate from the body on the basis that there is no proof of such an existence. The mind can be explained by the physical electrochemical activity found in the brain and is therefore not a “ghost” in a machine, but part of the machine itself.

If Ryle believes that the body and mind are of the same “category” and therefore that the mind deserves no recognition that the body does not receive, does he believe in people having “souls”? Descartes, and subsequently Cartesians, believe that the world is divided into three areas of existence: that which is inhabited by the physical body, that which is inhabited by the mind, and that which is inhabited by God. (Encyclopedia Britannica) They believe that the mind and body interact, but they are separate entities.

Previously, in class we talked about the mind and free will in terms of the brain and mind and the governing tool of the body. Yet, under Ryle’s argument, the mind is merely another part of the body, not an actual separate entity. There is no soul or mind to the body and therefore, there is no free will because if the body acts due to physiological and biological factors, then so, too, does the mind (as a facet of the body) and all decisions are made based on bodily process and free will does not exist and if free will does not exist how can the presence of a personality or soul?

In order to further understand these points, I found myself reading an Atheist blog, written by Adam Lee, who has written articles for many publications. His argument, in support of Ryle, is that there is no possible way that the mind can be considered separate from the body. Lee states that there is no aspect of the mind that does not correspond with an aspect of the brain (as determined by PET, CAT and MRI scans). The most compelling aspect of his argument was a few paragraphs in which he broke down the parts of the brain and explained how they do what for the body in terms of movement, sense and emotion.

Because this is true, there is no possible way a soul could exist because it has not been found. “Area after area of the brain has yielded up its secrets to the probing of neuroscience, and not a trace of it [the soul] has been found. […]All the evidence we currently possess suggests that there is nothing inside our skulls that does not obey the ordinary laws of physics.” (Lee, Patheos). With this in mind, I find myself having to agree – despite my own beliefs up to this point – somewhat. The evidence is all there, how can it be refuted? I am not sure how wholly I agree with either camp, but it is something to consider and ponder. If a soul can’t be found does it exist?

So, what do you think? Do we have souls?

I found this video that explores Ryle vs. Descartes and it helped me better understand the argument. It’s a little long but helpful!

-Watson, Richard A. “Cartesianism.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 08 Nov.2014. (
-Lee, Adam. “A Ghost in the Machine.” Patheos | Hosting the Conversation on Faith. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.



Ancestor Simulations and Ayer

In response to a comment on my first post I wrote another one, as I wanted to connect A. J Ayer’s examination of moralism and determinism to the concepts of skepticism discussed earlier in the course. However, I felt my original post would have been too long winded if I included all of these thoughts.

If we are in fact living in a computer simulation or a false world of some sort then it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile the argument with the moralist with that of our false reality. However, if we postulate that the determinist is indeed correct in his thoughts that we cannot change the past, future, or any part of our destiny, then reconciling these thoughts with that of a false world is actually quite simple. As our world itself is false then our actions are simulated, pre-determined, and any actions we take in our false world would have absolutely no bearing on the future as our world has no connection to any “true” future, and no connection to the true world in which the computer simulating our world exists.

However, coming back to the argument of the moralist. If all of our actions are our own, and we are responsible for the consequences of our actions which in turn shape the future, then it is required that our simulated world have some preexisting connection to the “real” world, which can be found in the simulating computer and the scientists observing the aforementioned simulation. So if we postulate that scientists are observing our simulation and that these observations somehow alter the scientist’s mentality or perspective on life or the human experience, then our actions in our false world did in fact have consequences that shaped the future and can be accounted for.

I recognize for the moralist view to be reconciled with a ancestor simulation people from the “real world” must observe the simulation and gain some experience from the observation. However, if an ancestor simulation were to be created it would surely have some observers of some sort because without people to study the ancestor simulation creating the simulation itself would become pointless. Furthermore, for the argument of the moralist to succeed in an ancestor simulation the simulations cannot merely be “zombies” but rather need to be unaware simulated beings that believe themselves to living in a “true” reality. If all simulated beings were zombies then they would not develop any organic thoughts that would lead to any significant observations from the simulation. So based on this previous postulation we can indeed infer that the simulations would indeed by unaware organic simulations, and that people would be observing and learning from these organic simulations. So the actions of these simulations do indeed shape the future and we can indeed reconcile the argument with of ancestor simulations with that of the moralist.

I understand that one could attempt to refute my argument through postulating that by creating the ancestor simulation the scientists observations would be “pre-destined” as his observations were induced by actions in the simulation that would have not taken place if the simulation had not been created. So if he is pre-destined to learn from the ancestor simulation, which he himself created, then did, the actions of the scientists really alter the future at all? All I can say in response to this argument is that there is no degree of certainty to what the scientist will learn from observing the simulation. He could learn people are evil, people are lazy, or people are philanthropic and generous. And while one could predict what the scientist could learn by examining his character and his life experiences, one could never be 100% certain with that prediction. And once again, I postulate that this randomness associated with the human experience, is what enables realism and determinism to be reconciled, because while stimuli and experiences may shape one’s destiny, it does not make it 100% certain.

The Problem of Induction

Inductive inference is a type of method that many scientists use to arrive at general claims from premises and observed samples. Historically however, philosophers such as David Hume have argued that inductive reasoning is unjustified and problematic in many ways. Pritchard explores this idea known as “the problem of induction” in Chapter 10.

An example of an observation is: Every observed emu has been flightless. Therefore the inductive inference would be: All Emus are flightless. Before Humes created his argument, this inference would seem justifiable so long as the observation was made in a range of cases that represented it. Humes however brings to question, “… how we could be sure that the regularities that are observed within a representative sample should increase the likelihood that the unrestricted generalization is true” (Pritchard 102). This proves that in order to defend that an inductive inference is justifiable, one must use yet another inductive claim. The epistemic support for inductive inferences is circular. From this, we conclude that there can be no non-circular justification for inductive inferences. This dilemma is known as the problem of induction and leaves us with the issue of whether we can justify inductive reasoning considering the fact Humes has presented us with the problem of induction. Do we conclude that induction needs no justification? Do we side with epistemic internalists who believe one must always have supporting grounds?

Since scientists are prone to use inductive reasoning, is the problem of Induction merely a something we can live with? Popper suggests that, “we don’t in fact make use of inductive inferences all that often” (103). Popper presents us with falsification, an alternative method for proceeding deductively through the problem of induction. Simply put, we must create generalizations then seek to refute them by finding evidence that counters the generalization. Is falsification a useful way to avoid the problem of induction? Philosophers argue that although falsification may temporarily solve the problem of induction, it suggest that in fact we don’t know much about scientific knowledge and we don’t know that many generalizations are indeed false.

Another solution to the problem of induction is Pragmatism. If we assume there is no justification for induction and we don’t employ induction and believe it is rational, we won’t have many true beliefs in this world. Pritchard states, “If we do use induction, at least we have the chance to form lots of true beliefs about the world through our inductive inferences” (107). This is the pragmatic response to the problem of induction. We face a choice between either using induction to gain true beliefs, or believing it is not justifiable and losing all potential true beliefs about the world.

Falsification and Pragmatism leave us with a choice to make in take for defining and justifying induction. Do we side with Humes, Popper, or one of the numerous other philosophers who believe they have arrived at solutions for the problem of induction? Vickers argues, “In recent times inductive methods have fissioned and multiplied, to an extent that attempting to define induction would be more difficult than rewarding… it is safe to say that in the absence of further assumptions this problem is and should be insoluble.” (Vickers). In other words, attempting to justify induction further complicates the problem because it raises even more questions. This leads us to the conclusion that the problem of induction is merely something we must live with in order for us to continue our scientific studies and the search for true beliefs in our world.

Outside source: Vickers, John, “The Problem of Induction”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.