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Induction and the black swan example

The problem of induction is often illustrated by means of the black swan example. We used to believe that all swans are white, because all those we had seen were white. But then we went to Australia and saw black swans there, so our earlier rule was shown to be wrong. Our earlier belief is supposed to be arrived at by induction.

I find a difficulty with this example. What it really shows, I think, is that such things are matters of definition. We define a swan as a large bird with a long neck that swims on water. Whether we choose to add the item of its colour as part of the description is up to us. Before we went to Australia we probably would include the colour. When we see a bird which is otherwise identical to what we describe as a swan except that it is is black, it is a matter of convention whether we call it a swan. If we wished we could call it a 'swin', which would then be a bird which looks like a swan except that it is black. If we adopt the term 'swin' for these black birds, we could continue to say that all swans are white. Whether we choose to do so or not is simply a question of convenience.

If we encountered a white bird which looked like a swan but never entered the water, would we call it a swan?


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