The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

Overview


A groundbreaking solution to the problem of induction, based on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts.

Inspired by and expanding on a series of lectures presented by Leonard Peikoff, David Harriman presents a fascinating answer to the problem of induction-the epistemological question of how we can know the truth of inductive generalizations.

Ayn Rand presented her revolutionary theory of concepts in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. ...

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The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

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Overview


A groundbreaking solution to the problem of induction, based on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts.

Inspired by and expanding on a series of lectures presented by Leonard Peikoff, David Harriman presents a fascinating answer to the problem of induction-the epistemological question of how we can know the truth of inductive generalizations.

Ayn Rand presented her revolutionary theory of concepts in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. As Dr. Peikoff subsequently explored the concept of induction, he sought out David Harriman, a physicist who had taught philosophy, for his expert knowledge of the scientific discovery process.

Here, Harriman presents the result of a collaboration between scientist and philosopher. Beginning with a detailed discussion of the role of mathematics and experimentation in validating generalizations in physics-looking closely at the reasoning of scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Lavoisier, and Maxwell-Harriman skillfully argues that the inductive method used in philosophy is in principle indistinguishable from the method used in physics.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451230058
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 696,242
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Leonard Peikoff is universally recognized as the pre-eminent Rand scholar writing today. He worked closely with Ayn Rand for 30 years and was designated by her as her intellectual heir and heir to her estate. He has taught philosophy at Hunter College, Long Island University, and New York University, and hosted the national radio talk show "Philosophy: Who Needs It."
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  • Posted October 23, 2010

    The most important book since Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

    The book is about Leonard Peikoff's solution to the so-called problem of induction.

    In one respect there is no problem of induction. There is really no need to validate induction because it is through induction (and deduction) we validate and prove everything. In another respect there is a problem of induction. What we need to know is why generalizations are possible (and necessary). We also need to know the rules of induction.

    Peikoff and Harriman will answer both questions by applying the epistemology of Objectivism and by studying the history of physics. The reason they study the history of physics is because it is the most successful science. It is the most successful because most of the major physicists have, it turns out, implicitly induced "according to the rules".

    Without Ayn Rand's theory of concepts there would be no way to solve the problem of induction, says Peikoff. (For details read Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.)

    To give you an idea of the solution let me indicate the answer to these two basic questions: What makes generalizations possible? What makes inductive inferences logically necessary?

    What is it that makes generalizations possible? It is the application of concepts. By observing a fire burning a piece of paper and then applying concepts such as "fire", "burn" and "paper" we immediately omit all the specific measurements in our observation. We go beyond this particular fire, this particular combustion, and this particular paper. We go beyond here and now. The result is thus the generalization "fire burn paper".

    What makes inductive inferences necessary? The answer is provided by observing what a generalization presuppose: an observation and the application of concepts (and everything else you know). The necessity of a valid inductive inference follows from the fact that we either have to deny what we actually observe (e.g., that fire burns a piece of paper), which results in a contradiction. Or we have to deny everything we know (e.g., that there is fire, combustion, paper), which also results in a contradiction. An inferences is necessary if the alternatives are contradictory.

    There is much more to Peikoff's theory of induction. I have only indicated the essence of the solution. I have, for example, not said anything about the idea that valid concepts constitute a "green light" for induction (and that invalid concepts constitute a "red light" for induction), that there are many interesting parallels between forming concepts and generalizing, that induction is a self-correcting process, the rules of induction, the most common mistakes when inducing, that philosophy is an inductive science just like physics, why math is essential in physics but not in philosophy, why philosophy is not in any way less scientific because of that. And much more.

    I believe The Logical Leap answers all the essential questions concerning the problem of induction. Since the book intends to solve the problem of induction, this will also be the standard for my judgment. And considering that a solution to the problem of induction is the last, crucial step to completely validate reason, I think the book is a historic achievement. This is probably the most important book since Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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