Meta-Induction and Social Epistemology: Computer Simulations of Prediction Games

Episteme 6 (2):200-220 (2009)
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Abstract

The justification of induction is of central significance for cross-cultural social epistemology. Different ‘epistemological cultures’ do not only differ in their beliefs, but also in their belief-forming methods and evaluation standards. For an objective comparison of different methods and standards, one needs (meta-)induction over past successes. A notorious obstacle to the problem of justifying induction lies in the fact that the success of object-inductive prediction methods (i.e., methods applied at the level of events) can neither be shown to be universally reliable (Hume's insight) nor to be universally optimal. My proposal towards a solution of the problem of induction is meta-induction. The meta-inductivist applies the principle of induction to all competing prediction methods that are accessible to her. By means of mathematical analysis and computer simulations of prediction games I show that there exist meta-inductive prediction strategies whose success is universally optimal among all accessible prediction strategies, modulo a small short-run loss. The proposed justification of meta-induction is mathematically analytical. It implies, however, an a posteriori justification of object-induction based on the experiences in our world. In the final section I draw conclusions about the significance of meta-induction for the social spread of knowledge and the cultural evolution of cognition, and I relate my results to other simulation results which utilize meta-inductive learning mechanisms.

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Gerhard Schurz
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

References found in this work

Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart.Gerd Gigerenzer, Peter M. Todd & A. B. C. Research Group - 1999 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press USA. Edited by Peter M. Todd.
The theory of probability.Hans Reichenbach - 1949 - Berkeley,: University of California Press.
The Logic of Reliable Inquiry.Kevin T. Kelly - 1996 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press USA. Edited by Kevin Kelly.
A material theory of induction.John D. Norton - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (4):647-670.

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