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(2011) Explanation, prediction, and confirmation, Dordrecht, Springer.

Russell on non-demonstrative inference

Graham Stevens

pp. 511-520

Russell's general attitude towards science was an element of his philosophy that remained constant throughout his career, while other doctrines and attitudes came and went around it. It is expressed succinctly in the autobiographical book My Philosophical Development: "Science is at no moment quite right, but it is seldom quite wrong, and has, as a rule, a better chance of being right than the theories of the unscientific. It is, therefore, rational to accept it hypothetically". This view of scientific theories as successively improving approximations of the truth was more to Russell than simply his outlook on the philosophy of science. It underpinned his entire approach to philosophy, dictating its method, and forging a link between philosophy and science that alienated some (such as Wittgenstein), while inspiring others (such as Quine). It meant, for Russell, that philosophy was answerable to science, and that science often provided the most promising starting point for work in, for example, metaphysics and epistemology. Yet, like most philosophers who take seriously Hume's sceptical analysis of inductive reasoning, Russell did not think that the principle of induction could be proved without begging the question.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-1180-8_35

Full citation:

Stevens, G. (2011)., Russell on non-demonstrative inference, in D. Dieks, S. Hartmann, T. Uebel, M. Weber & W. J. González (eds.), Explanation, prediction, and confirmation, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 511-520.

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