Marius Backmann (Konstanz): “Necessarily the Old Riddle – Necessary Connections, Laws of Nature, and the Problem of Induction”

In my talk, I will criticise recent attempts to solve the problem of induction by invoking a notion of necessary connections, as provided by necessitarian accounts of laws of nature or recent neo-Aristotelian powers accounts.

The basic model of the various proposed necessitarian solutions to the problem of induction is as follows: if there is a necessary connection between, say, F-ness and G-ness, then every F will be a G. So if we knew that such a necessary connection holds, we would be justified to infer the respective universal regularity. Accounts of this sort typically come as a two-stage argument. First, we infer via an inference to the best explanation that there is a necessary connection between F-ness and G-ness from the fact that so far, all Fs have been Gs. We then deductivelyinfer from the existence of this necessary connection between F-ness and G-ness that all Fs are Gs, including the unobserved or future ones. Depending on what specific metaphysics stand behind such a view, the necessary connection can either be taken to hold between two universals, as in the Armstrong-Tooley-Dretske-view of laws of nature, or between a neo-Aristotelian power and its manifestation. This analysis of inductive reasoning supposedly also accurately represents actual scientific practice.

In this talk, I will first give a brief summary of the existing necessitarian proposals to solve the Old Riddle, and then go on to argue that they all necessarily fail for a number of reasons: neither is the inference to the existence of a particular necessary connection unproblematic, nor does a necessary connection imply the respective universal regularity. Lastly, I will argue that the proposed solutions not only do not cover the majority of everyday inductive inferences, but also do not even accurately represent scientific reasoning, as they were designed to.


Marius Backmann currently works at the University of Konstanz where he is funded within his own research project The Metaphysics of Induction. He is also a long-term visitor at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science.