Avicenna on Induction.Doc

Avicenna on Induction

M. A. Ejeii
University of Isfahan


    The aim of this paper is to discuss Avicenna's deductive justification of induction. The paper introduces Avicenna’s theory of induction as a post-falsificationist theory of his time, and then proceeds to discuss a distinction he has made between induction and experience. The paper then discusses the theory and focuses on some of the problems related to Avicenna’s claim that our belief in inductive generalization is based on a deductive structure, and differentiates it from a view criticized by Hume. The paper ends up with a short comparison of what Avicenna, Hume and Ayer say on the kind justification in question.

Keywords: Avicenna, Ayer, Hume, Induction, Experience, deductive justification, Principle of Plenitude.

Inductive reasoning is discussed in almost all Avicenna’s logical works.[1] But his most detailed discussion of induction occurs in his encyclopedic work Al-Shifa (The Healing), in Kitab al-Burhan (Book of Demonstration). For the purpose of our current discussion it is important to note that, prior to Avicenna’s time, there had been some philosophical discussion of the problem of induction, and various attempts to find justification for inductive knowledge. Among these theories there had also existed a falsificationist view to which Al-Farabi (d. 950/51), Avicenna’s predecessor, adhered. The following excerpt, which the writer found in one of his logical works, corroborates the point:

    ... And there are some others who wanted to validate (tas-hih, making sound/correct) the major premise through induction, but when they found that induction is inadequate for that purpose, a point, which we have frequently made in what we said before, they rejected induction as a means for justifying that premise, and used it instead to falsify it.[2]

Now, one can safely assume that Avicenna had been quite familiar with the views of his well known predecessor and...