The Tendency to Take Habits

David Hume was the first Western philosopher to point out really clearly what is now called the "problem of induction" -- i.e. how is it we can assume that, just because the sun has risen every morning for the last thousand (or million) days, it will do so again tomorrow?

We can say it will continue because we have an intuition that patterns tend to continue -- but then how do we know that patterns tend to continue? We know because in the past we have observed that patterns tend to continue. But then how do we know that this past observation, which is itself a sort of pattern, will tend to continue?

Charles Peirce used the term "the tendency to take habits" to refer to the assumption that, in the universe we live in, patterns do tend to continue.

An implication is that our ability to predict the future is predicated on our ability to identify patterns.

And, digging a little deeper -- remember that pattern, in the view I've suggested above, is defined in terms of an assumed simplicity measure. This suggests that: For a mind to operate effectively, it needs to assume a simplicity measure for which, in its experience, the tendency to take habits holds true ...

We have the largely happy circumstance of living in a world where there are simplifications apparent from considering the past and the future together. We take this for granted but it's an important observation: without that, experience would be a lot of noise....

1 comment:

  1. no wonder I'm discoherent/adherent of disco/not inco

    Was any of that coherent?

    I'm in the habit of not reading Hume. Perhaps I should give him a chance before I resume.