On Peirce’s 1878 article ‘The probability of induction’: a conceptualistic appraisal

Abstract

Charles Sanders Peirce wrote the article ‘The probability of induction’ in 1878. It was the fourth article of the series ‘Illustrations of the Logic of Science’ which comprised a total of six articles. According to Peirce, to get a clear idea of the conception of probability, one has ‘to consider what real and sensible difference there is between one degree of probability and another.’ He endorsed what John Venn had called the ‘materialistic view’ of the subject, namely that probability is the proportion of times in which an occurrence of one kind is accompanied by an occurrence of another kind. On the other hand, Peirce recognized the existence of a different interpretation of probability, which was termed by Venn the ‘conceptualistic view,’ namely the degree of belief that ought to be attached to a proposition. Peirce’s intent on writing this article seems to be to inquire about the claims of the conceptualists concerning the problem of induction. After reasoning on some examples, he concluded on the impossibility of assigning probability for induction. We show here that the arguments advanced in his article are not sufficient to support such conclusion. Peirce’s thoughts on the probability of induction surely may have influenced statisticians and research scientists of the twentieth century in shaping data analysis.

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Kyriazis, G.A. On Peirce’s 1878 article ‘The probability of induction’: a conceptualistic appraisal. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 75, 1–20 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00407-020-00256-x

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