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Thursday, January 21, 2016

David Harriman's ‘The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics’

David Harriman's ‘The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics’ is good book for understanding the theory of induction.

Leonard Peikoff has this to say in the introduction, “The influence of physics on culture cuts both ways. When, thanks to Kant, the most advanced science departs from the proper method—for example, when physicists renounce causality in the subatomic realm and revert to the menial job of “saving appearances,” or when they entirely detach theory from reality and wander around an eleven-dimensional geometry of spacetime—the cultural consequences are devastating. People hear about such views and conclude: If this is rationality, who needs it? There must be something better. Then we see unreason become ubiquitous, from the rise of fundamentalist religion and pseudoscience to the rise of multiculturalism and nihilism.”

The book provides overview of how human beings reach their first inductive generalizations and how these generalizations become the foundation of scientific knowledge; it describes the objective criteria for proof in scientific theory. Harriman has conducted interesting analysis of the scientific life of many leading scientists like Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Copernicus and few others to explain the theory of induction and to prove that induction is the method by which scientists discover the laws of nature.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter titled ‘The Role of Mathematics and Philosophy':

From Plato to Descartes to Kant to Hegel, rationalist philosophers have attempted to deduce the nature of the world from “a priori” ideas, and their spectacular failure has done much to discredit philosophy in the eyes of physicists. Philosophy does not tell us the specific nature of the world—but it does tell us that there is a world, that it has a nature and must act accordingly, and that we discover that nature by following certain principles of method.

Philosophy is the science that defines the relationship between the volitional consciousness and reality. Thus it is the fundamental science of human life, on which all more specialised disciplines rest. It is the voice telling us how to pursue those disciples while staying in cognitive contract with reality at each point—which is a prerequisite of our successfully achieving rational goals in any field. All other sciences presuppose the essentials of a rational view of the universe, of knowledge, and values.

Philosophy is and has to be an inductive subject in every branch except metaphysics…. The normative ideas of philosophy are not innate; they must be learned by starting with perceptual observation and then proceeding up the necessary hierarchy, just as in physical science. All knowledge of reality must be gained on the basis of observation, including the knowledge of how to gain knowledge. Induction is inescapable in every subject.

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