Category: The Philosophy of Karl Popper

Open Court: 1974.

How not to be misled by words

To point (4)—induction is a myth—I wish to add only that nothing depends upon words. If anybody should write, as did Peirce, “The operation of testing a hypothesis by experiment … I call induction”, I should not object, as long as he is not misled by the word. But Peirce was misled, as were many others. This is why I prefer to use the word “induction” to stand for the myth that the repetition of something—“observations” or “instances”, perhaps—provides some rational basis for the acceptance of hypotheses. Peirce, in spite of the flawless explanation he sometimes gave of the method of hypotheses and tests, at other times defended precisely this myth; for example, when he compared natural laws with habits (acquired by repetition) and when he tried to give a probabilistic theory of induction. It is induction by repetition (and therefore probabilistic induction) which I combat as the centre of the myth; and in view of the past history of induction from Aristotle and Bacon to Peirce and Carnap, it seems to me appropriate to use the term “induction” as standing, briefly, for “induction by repetition”. [1032]