Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/734

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the third ball being white would be the same whatever the first two were. But, by inspecting the table, the reader can see that in each group all orders of the balls occur with equal frequency, so that it makes no difference whether they are drawn out in the order they were put in or not. Hence the colors of the balls already drawn have no influence on the probability of any other being white or black.

Now, if there be any way of enumerating the possibilities of Nature so as to make them equally probable, it is clearly one which should make one arrangement or combination of the elements of Nature as probable as another, that is, a distribution like that we have supposed, and it, therefore, appears that the assumption that any such thing can be done, leads simply to the conclusion that reasoning from past to future experience is absolutely worthless. In fact, the moment that you assume that the chances in favor of that of which we are totally ignorant are even, the problem about the tides does not differ, in any arithmetical particular, from the case in which a penny (known to be equally likely to come up heads and tails) should turn up heads m times successively. In short, it would be to assume that Nature is a pure chaos, or chance combination of independent elements, in which reasoning from one fact to another would be impossible; and since, as we shall hereafter see, there is no judgment of pure observation without reasoning, it would be to suppose all human cognition illusory and no real knowledge possible. It would be to suppose that if we have found the order of Nature more or less regular in the past, this has been by a pure run of luck which we may expect is now at an end. Now, it may be we have no scintilla of proof to the contrary, but reason is unnecessary in reference to that belief which is of all the most settled, which nobody doubts or can doubt, and which he who should deny would stultify himself in so doing.

The relative probability of this or that arrangement of Nature is something which we should have a right to talk about if universes were as plenty as blackberries, if we could put a quantity of them in a bag, shake them well up, draw out a sample, and examine them to see what proportion of them had one arrangement and what proportion another. But, even in that case, a higher universe would contain us, in regard to whose arrangements the conception of probability could have no applicability.

 
IV.

We have examined the problem proposed by the conceptualists, which, translated into clear language, is this: Given a synthetic conclusion; required to know out of all possible states of things how many will accord, to any assigned extent, with this conclusion; and we have found that it is only an absurd attempt to reduce synthetic to analytic reason, and that no definite solution is possible.

But there is another problem in connection with this subject. It