Pragmatic Justification

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Bertrand Russell, one of the most influential philosophers of the modern age, argued extensively in his book, “The Problems of Philosophy”, that the belief in inductive reasoning is only rational on the grounds of its intrinsic evidence; it cannot be justified by an appeal to experience alone (Russell 1998). Inductive reasoning refers to a form of reasoning that constructs or assesses propositions that are generalizations of observations (Russell 1998). Inductive reasoning is thus, in simple terms, probabilistic. The premises of an inductive logical argument provide some degree of support for the conclusion, but that support is in no way definitive or conclusive (Browne, 2004). Yet even if one agrees with Russell and concludes that there are no rational justifications for the principle of induction in and of itself, one can still maintain that there is a pragmatic justification for maintaining a belief in the principle. Simply put, there are still perfectly sound reasons for behaving as if the principle of induction holds true, regardless of whether or not the principle itself is rationally justifiable (Browne, 2004). This type of justification can be used across many of the belief systems that we as human beings hold, even stretching to the playing field of religion. In this paper I will outline not only why it is pragmatically justifiable to believe in the principle of induction, but also why it is equally as justifiable to believe in an infinite God, regardless of whether or not deductive reasoning provides us with definitive support for such conclusions.

Let’s begin by examining the issue of universal order and the Problem of Induction. The problem with inductive reasoning is that it is based on the assumption that ...

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.... Yet for our own happiness and peace of mind, we must believe that past occurrences, such as the sun rising yesterday and the thousands of days before that, provide us with perfectly good evidence for believing that tomorrow the sun will rise again. By the same token, we can rationally support a belief in God, even if we cannot provide conclusive evidence for His existence (or non-existence). These types of pragmatic justifications are, I believe, essential to the happiness and well-being of human beings. Regardless of whether or not the arguments for the merit and existence of both God and the principle of induction hold any water whatsoever, the optimistic approaches to the problems are in no way harmful. They allow us to live our lives in relative happiness, regardless of the fact that we ultimately can be certain of so little in the universe we live in.

In this essay, the author

  • Argues that the belief in inductive reasoning is only rational on the grounds of its intrinsic evidence; it cannot be justified by an appeal to experience alone.
  • Explains that inductive reasoning is based on the assumption that the future will resemble the past.
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