Does the Dome Defeat the Material Theory of Induction?

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


According to John D. Norton's Material Theory of Induction, all inductive inferences are justified by local facts, rather than their formal features or some grand principles of nature's uniformity. Recently, Richard Dawid (Found Phys 45(9):1101–1109, 2015) has offered a challenge to this theory: in an adaptation of Norton's own celebrated "Dome" thought experiment, it seems that there are certain inductions that are intuitively reasonable, but which do not have any local facts that could serve to justify them in accordance with Norton's requirements. Dawid's suggestion is that “raw induction” might have a limited but important role for such inferences. I argue that the Material Theory can accommodate such inductions, because there are local facts concerning the combinatoric features of the induction’s target populations that can licence the inferences in an analogous way to existing examples of material induction. Since my arguments are largely independent of the details of the Dome, Norton's theory emerges as surprisingly robust against criticisms of excessive narrowness.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding was provided by Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (Grant No. 639276). I am grateful to the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS) at Durham University for feedback on this article.


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