The difficulties inherent in deriving universal truths from particular observations have been annotated throughout the history of logical analysis, from Hume to Popper, and continue to haunt attempts at scientific certitude. That probabilities can be imputed, as opposed to arriving at undeniable conclusions, allows for that “wiggle room” which is the hallmark of modern science.
Today, where the intersection and commingling of science, politics and entertainment requires less than rigorous experimental verification, and where drug companies argue for fast-tracking of medications with limited-to-little trials, even of “controlled” ones — inductive reasoning, though unverifiable and certainly wrought with inherent self-compromise, nevertheless compels people to act.
The classic example of having seen only white swans, leading to the general conclusion that there exist only white swans in the entirety of the universe of such species, is merely a convoluted tautology in a world of untrained and unsophisticated populace.
Rigor in argumentation has been decimated; simple Aristotelian logic is no longer taught (leaving aside Bertrand Russell’s 3-volume compendium of advancement in symbolic logic through his work, Principia Mathematica); and instead, we are left with the inane comments and diatribes on Facebook and other chatter which camouflages for intellectual discussions (where are the Buckleys and the Hitchens of the world when we needed them? Or is it that aristocratic New England accents and British elocutions merely sound of a higher order?), where cyber-bullying has pushed aside the quite reasonings of timid voices.
Of course, deductive reasoning, as well, can be criticized, and has been by insightful corners of cautionary esotericism; for, the question always begins, From whence did the universal statement in such deductive analysis derive? Were they not, also, from singular arguments based on the particulars of observations?
But more to the point: For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are preparing one’s Statement of Disability on SF 3112A, it is important to recognized the problem of inductive inference, and not to engage beyond the factual basis of the medical reports relied upon and conclusions derived.
Be careful not to make vast generalizations and presume conclusions not referenced in the medical documentation attached; for, in preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is always important to stick to the relevant particulars of one’s case, and not get sidetracked into making unverifiable conclusions beyond the confining realms of logical validity.
Otherwise, you might be called upon to defend against Hume’s systematic dismantling of the soundness of inductive reasoning.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire