Popper’s Critical Rationalism as a Response to the Problem of Induction: Predictive Reasoning in the Early Stages of the Covid-19 Epidemic

Tuomo Peltonen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The extent of harm and suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a debate about whether the epidemic could have been contained, had the gravity of the crisis been predicted earlier. In this paper, the philosophical debate on predictive reasoning is framed by Hume’s problem of induction. Hume argued that it is rationally unjustified to move from the finite observations of past incidences to the predictions of future events. Philosophy has offered two major responses to the problem of induction: the pragmatic induction of Peirce and the critical rationalism of Popper. It is argued that of these two, Popper’s critical rationalism provides a more potent tool for preparing for unanticipated events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Popper’s notion of risky predictions equips strategic foresight with clear hypotheticals regarding potential crisis scenarios. Peirce’s pragmatic induction, instead, leans on probabilities that are slower to be amended as unexpected events start unfolding. The difference between the two approaches is demonstrated through a case study of the patterns of reasoning within the World Health Organization in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy of management
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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