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The pessimistic induction: a bad argument gone too far

Abstract

In this paper, I consider the pessimistic induction construed as a deductive argument (specifically, reductio ad absurdum) and as an inductive argument (specifically, inductive generalization). I argue that both formulations of the pessimistic induction are fallacious. I also consider another possible interpretation of the pessimistic induction, namely, as pointing to counterexamples to the scientific realist’s thesis that success is a reliable mark of (approximate) truth. I argue that this interpretation of the pessimistic induction fails, too. If this is correct, then the pessimistic induction is an utter failure that should be abandoned by scientific anti-realists.

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Correspondence to Moti Mizrahi.

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Mizrahi, M. The pessimistic induction: a bad argument gone too far. Synthese 190, 3209–3226 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-012-0138-3

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Keywords

  • Anti-realism
  • Inductive generalization
  • Pessimistic induction
  • Scientific realism