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Is the future like the past?

Inductivists want to have a premise "the future is like the past". Because if it isn't, then they can't infer from past observations to the future.

Let me state the obvious: sometimes the future is like the past, and sometimes it isn't. The past had a living William Godwin but the future won't. The past had wheat and the future will too. So is the future like the past? It is in some respects, and not in others. It depends.

Insisting that the future is like the past, full stop, is ridiculous.

If the future is sometimes like the past, how are we to know when it will be and when it won't be?

Induction offers no answer to that.

I can offer an answer: some of our explanations apply to the future, and some don't.

Why is it important that induction is false, and explanation-based approaches are better? Because the methods of finding good explanations are different than the methods of induction. So inductivists try to pursue knowledge in the wrong way, and it works badly.

In other words, ideas have consequences for one's life. Deeply false ideas about how to think have especially bad consequences.

Elliot Temple on March 13, 2009

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