Induction and Consistency

Henry E. Kyburg

in Common Sense, Reasoning, and Rationality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195147667
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785865 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science (formerly Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science)

 Induction and Consistency

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This chapter addresses the question of how a reasoning agent comes to accept conclusions that are based on inductive or uncertain inference. This is an important matter for plausible inference, particularly given the groundwork laid earlier in this book that puts induction at center stage for both common sense and rationality. Two approaches to uncertainty in dealing with such matters are considered. One is the Bayesian approach, which holds that observations or evidence is incorrigible, while all other statements have an associated number that indicates their degree of uncertainty. The other is a nonmonotonic approach, which supposes that people come to accept statements tentatively and that we might reject them when more evidence is collected. It is argued that the Bayesian reconstruction of induction is misguided both in its assumption that evidential statements are certain and in its attempt to avoid nonobservational acceptance. There is a way of casting the nonmonotonic approach in terms of probability intervals, which allows for the association of a level of error or uncertainty with individual statements and the recognition that the conjunction of all such statements is false, while still supporting the acceptance of each individual statement. Although the cost of this acceptance approach is that sometimes mistakes will be made, it is more realistic psychologically and more efficient computationally as a representation of rational inference.

Keywords: inference; Bayesian approach; nonmonotonic approach; acceptance approach; nonobservational acceptance

Chapter.  7563 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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