What is Hume's problem of induction? How successful is his sceptical solution to the problem?.
David Hume was born in 1711 and studied at Edinburgh University, his influences were great natural scientists like Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes. Hume first wrote " a treatise of Human nature " which as Hume put it "fell stillborn from the press" it was "An enquiry concerning human understanding" (from here this will be referred to as "the enquiry") in which Hume put forward, in the form we are concerned with, the problem of induction and his own response to that problem. Although as we shall see his own response may be far from adequate. This essay is concerned with explaining Hume's problem of induction as put forward in the enquiry, and explaining his sceptical solution to this problem. The essay is also concerned with assessing how successful his solution is.
Arguably Hume's most famous contribution to philosophy was the problem of induction. The problem of induction arises from Hume's belief that propositions fall into one of two categories, relations of ideas and matters of fact. It is in the latter of these two categories, matters of fact that the problem of induction occurs. It was Hume's view that matters of fact are statements about the world, justification for their validity comes from experience. This is fine for the present or past but it is the future that throws up the problem of induction. How can we justify expectations of the future? Or to put it another way how can we justify the belief that we know what will occur in unobserved events. If we use the same method as for the present and the past i.e. experience then we are assuming that nature will stay the same. But as Hume points out it is conceivable that nature will change in some way, therefore in Hume's philosophy it is possible that nature will change, therefore you cannot justify beliefs about the future using past experience.