Tom Rexton

Defending Induction

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One of the paper topics given by my Human Event professor is to defend or dispute the scientific method as outlined in Bacon's Novum Organon or Descartes' Discourse on Method. I've decided to defend the former, but considering how an adequate defense of scientific induction would require a treatise, I'm not too sure how to do it on a 7-page paper. Obviously, I can't expound a formal theory of induction, so the approach has to be to argue for its validity, without going into too much detail on the nature of induction itself. I'm thinking of focusing on three points:

First, I will argue for the blank slate theory of mind, which states that all knowledge is fundamentally derived from experience (sense perception) of reality, that man's mind at birth is a "blank slate". (I'll dispute here the idea that man is born with innate ideas).

Second, I will argue that, in consequence of the blank slate theory, induction from sense perception is the primary means of gaining knowledge (since generalizations must be formed before we can deduce from them). I'll include a discussion on the validity of the senses. Here I'll also dispute emotions as a source of knowledge.

Third, I will argue for the correct method of induction, the "gradual ascent" as Bacon calls it, where sufficient numerous evidence (particulars) are gathered and examined, and contrast against a false notion of induction, such as hasty generalizations and enumerative generalizations. This, I think, will be the most difficult part, since I have to distinguish "true induction" from false ones, and explain how an inductive generalization can become a certainty once, as Bacon explains, the affirmative instances as well as the (potentially) negative particulars are considered.

I'd like to ask anyone of you for your opinions and suggestions on my strategy. (Keep in mind my 7-page paper limit.)

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That's an ambitious project! I don't really have any comments on the content of your strategy but rather on its method. Seven pages is really quite short so you might consider really keeping it to just three points. A large part of what your professor should be grading you on is your ability to focus on a point and to develop that point to its fruition. This is especially important in a short paper on a very long topic.

So you might forgo the bit about emotions and perhaps even leave out hasty generalizations. Make it relevant to Bacon and resist the temptation to "Objectivize" your paper. Good writing!

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That's an ambitious project! I don't really have any comments on the content of your strategy but rather on its method. Seven pages is really quite short so you might consider really keeping it to just three points. A large part of what your professor should be grading you on is your ability to focus on a point and to develop that point to its fruition. This is especially important in a short paper on a very long topic.

So you might forgo the bit about emotions and perhaps even leave out hasty generalizations. Make it relevant to Bacon and resist the temptation to "Objectivize" your paper. Good writing!

Thanks for the suggestions. It really is a very short paper considering the subject matter, but I can probably get away with slightly adjusting the font size and the margins to fit in more words! :P Focus is crucial, as is brevity, because of the limit.

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One of the paper topics given by my Human Event professor is to defend or dispute the scientific method as outlined in Bacon's Novum Organon or Descartes' Discourse on Method.  I've decided to defend the former, but considering how an adequate defense of scientific induction would require a treatise, I'm not too sure how to do it on a 7-page .

You might want to defend sense perception as the foundation of the scientific method and show examples of it in Bacon. If you had more than 7 pages, I'd include the Law of Identity as another basic foundation.

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One of the paper topics given by my Human Event professor is to defend or dispute the scientific method as outlined in Bacon's Novum Organon or Descartes' Discourse on Method.  I've decided to defend the former, but considering how an adequate defense of scientific induction would require a treatise, I'm not too sure how to do it on a 7-page paper.

As I recall, this "Human Event" course is not a philosophy course per se, but rather it is a survey course that includes literature and religion. A decent defense of Bacon in only a 7-page paper would require some fairly dense writing, perhaps at a level beyond what is appropriate for the course. You might want to consider refuting Descartes instead (an easier task), focusing on his primacy of consciousness. This might give you a chance to get across some good ideas without necessarily condensing too much. Just a possibility.

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As I recall, this "Human Event" course is not a philosophy course per se, but rather it is a survey course that includes literature and religion. A decent defense of Bacon in only a 7-page paper would require some fairly dense writing, perhaps at a level beyond what is appropriate for the course. You might want to consider refuting Descartes instead (an easier task), focusing on his primacy of consciousness. This might give you a chance to get across some good ideas without necessarily condensing too much. Just a possibility.

The course is largely a Western philosophy survey, and even the literature selections (Voltaire, Moliere, Dostoevsky, et al) are highly philosophic in subject matter. But yes, I am worried a 7-page defense of Bacon would be too condensed, taking too much as a given and leaving too many questions unanswered and the main ideas inadequately covered. So I was also thinking of refuting Descartes as an easier alternative--a highly probable alternative. Still, I'd like to see how defending Bacon in 7-pages could be done (if at all possible).

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The course is largely a Western philosophy survey, and even the literature selections (Voltaire, Moliere, Dostoevsky, et al) are highly philosophic in subject matter.  But yes, I am worried a 7-page defense of Bacon would be too condensed, taking too much as a given and leaving too many questions unanswered and the main ideas inadequately covered.  So I was also thinking of refuting Descartes as an easier alternative--a highly probable alternative.  Still, I'd like to see how defending Bacon in 7-pages could be done (if at all possible).

One approach might be to focus solely on the issue of why Bacon's methods actually worked. Sort of an inductive approach to scientific induction. You could single out the work of a few well-known scientists.

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