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Pragmatic Justification Essay

1368 words - 5 pages

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 the future will resemble the past (Russell, 1998). It is upon this reasoning that we base our belief in gravity and other such universal “laws” (Russell, 1998). Russell has outlined that inductive reasoning does not provide definitive proof of the occurrence of future events, regardless of how many times they have occurred in the past. Thus, rationally speaking, we have no definitive or conclusive reason for the belief in universal order, since we cannot continue to believe that universal laws, such as the law of gravity, will hold true simply because they have up until this point (Russell, 1998). However, pragmatically speaking, one can assume that the universe will either be orderly, or it will not. Furthermore, we will either expect the universe to be orderly, or we will not. Thus, one of only four possibilities is rationally possible (Browne, 2004). The universe will continue to be orderly, and will we assume that it shall continue as such; the universe will continue to be orderly and we will expect that it will not continue as such; the universe will be disorderly and we will assume that is orderly; or the universe will be disorderly and we will assume that it is disorderly (Browne, 2004). Logically, if we...

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