Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/497

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ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE.

Induction is, plainly, a much stronger kind of inference than hypothesis; and this is the first reason for distinguishing between them. Hypotheses are sometimes regarded as provisional resorts, which in the progress of science are to be replaced by inductions. But this is a false view of the subject. Hypothetic reasoning infers very frequently a fact not capable of direct observation. It is an hypothesis that Napoleon Bonaparte once existed. How is that hypothesis ever to be replaced by an induction? It may be said that from the premise that such facts as we have observed are as they would be if Napoleon existed, we are to infer by induction that all facts that are hereafter to be observed will be of the same character. There is no doubt that every hypothetic inference may be distorted into the appearance of an induction in this way. But the essence of an induction is that it infers from one set of facts another set of similar facts, whereas hypothesis infers from facts of one kind to facts of another. Now, the facts which serve as grounds for our belief in the historic reality of Napoleon are not by any means necessarily the only kind of facts which are explained by his existence. It may be that, at the time of his career, events were being recorded in some way not now dreamed of, that some ingenious creature on a neighboring planet was photographing the earth, and that these pictures on a sufficiently large scale may some time come into our posession, or that some mirror upon a distant star will, when the light reaches it, reflect the whole story back to earth. Never mind how improbable these suppositions are; everything which happens is infinitely improbable. I am not saying that these things are likely to occur, but that some effect of Napoleon's existence which now seems impossible is certain nevertheless to be brought about. The hypothesis asserts that such facts, when they do occur, will be of a nature to confirm, and not to refute, the existence of the man. We have, in the impossibility of inductively inferring hypothetical conclusions, a second reason for distinguishing between the two kinds of inference.

A third merit of the distinction is, that it is associated with an important psychological or rather physiological difference in the mode of apprehending facts. Induction infers a rule. Now, the belief of a rule is a habit. That a habit is a rule active in us, is evident. That every belief is of the nature of a habit, in so far as it is of a general character, has been shown in the earlier papers of this series. Induction, therefore, is the logical formula which expresses the physiological process of formation of a habit. Hypothesis substitutes, for a complicated tangle of predicates attached to one subject, a single conception. Now, there is a peculiar sensation belonging to the act of thinking that each of these predicates inheres in the subject. In hypothetic inference this complicated feeling so produced is replaced by a single feeling of greater intensity, that belonging to the act of thinking the hypothetic conclusion. Now, when our nervous system is excited in a complicated way, there being a relation between the elements of the excitation, the