Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Dictionary of philosophy and psychology including many of the principal conceptions of ethics, logics, aesthetics ... and giving a terminology in English, French, German and Italian, vol. 2 [lead-zwing]
Baldwin, James Mark
Fr. uniformité', Ital. uniformité, (i) A fact 
consisting in this : that, of a certain genus of 
facts, a proportion approaching unity (the 
whole) belong, in the course of experience, to 
a certain species ; so that, though of itself 
the knowledge of this uniformity gives no 
information concerning a certain thing or 
character, yet it will strengthen any inductive 
conclusion of a certain kind. 
It is, therefore, a high objective probability 
concerning an objective probability. There 
are, in particular’, four classes of uniformities, 
the knowledge of any of which, or of its falsity, 
may deductively strengthen or weaken an 
inductive conclusion. These four kinds of 
uniformity are as follows:— 
i. The members of a class may present an 
extraordinary resemblance to one another in 
regard to a certain line of characters. Thus, 
the Icelanders are said to resemble one another 
most strikingly in their opinions about general 
subjects. Knowing this, we should not need 
to question many Icelanders, if we found that 
the first few whom we met all shared a 
common superstition, in order to conclude 
with considerable confidence that nearly all 
Icelanders were of the same way of thinking. 
Philodemus insists strongly upon this kind of 
uniformity as a support of induction. 
ii. A character may be such that, in what¬ 
ever genus it occurs at all, it almost always 
belongs to all the species of that genus ; or 
this uniformity may be lacking. Thus, Avhen 
only white swans were known, it would have 
been hazardous to assert that all swans were 
white, because whiteness is not usually a 
generic character. It is considerably more 
safe to assert that all crows are black, because 
blackness is oftener a generic character. This 
kind of uniformity is especially emphasized 
by J. S. Mill as important in inductive in¬ 
iii. A certain set of characters may be 
intimately connected so as to be usually all 
present or all absent from certain kinds of 
objects. Thus, the different chemical reactions 
of gold are so inseparable that a chemist 
need only to succeed in getting, say, the 
purple of Cassius, to be confident that the 
body under examination will show every 
reaction of gold. 
iv. Of a certain object it may be known 
that its characteristic is that when it possesses 
one of a set of characters within a certain 
group of such sets, it possesses the rest. 
Thus, it may be known of a certain man that 
to whatever party he belongs, he is apt to 
embrace without reserve the entire creed of 
that party. ¥e shall not, then, need to know 
many of his opinions, say in regard to politics, 
in order to infer with great confidence his 
position upon other political questions. 
(2) The word ‘uniformity3 plays such a 
singular and prominent rôle in the logic of 
J. S. Mill that it is proper to note it. He 
was apt to be greatly influenced by Ockham’s 
razor in forming theories which he defended 
with great logical acumen ; but he differed 
from other men of that way of thinking in 
that his natural candour led to his making 
many admissions without perceiving how fatal 
they were to his negative theories. In addi¬ 
tion to that, perhaps more than other philo¬ 
sophers, in endeavouring to embrace several 
ideas under a common term, he often leaves 
us at a loss to find any other character com¬ 
mon and peculiar to those notions except that 
of their having received from him that common 
designation. In one passage of his System of 
Logic (1842), he declares, in reference to the 
difference in strength between two inductive 
conclusions, that whoever shall discover the 
cause of that difference will have discovered 
the secret of inductive reasoning. When, 
therefore, he shortly afterwards points out 
that the distinction between those two induc¬ 
tions is that one of them is supported by 
a uniformity of the second of the above four 
classes, while the other is met by a distinct 
diversity of the same kind, and when he him¬ 
self gives to that uniformity this designation 
when he afterwards declares that the validity 
of induction depends upon uniformity, his 
reader naturally supposes he means uniformity 
in that sense. But we find that he employs 
the word for quite another purpose. Namely, 
he does not like the word law, as applied 
to an inductive generalization of natural facts 
—such as the ‘law’ of gravitation—because 
it implies an element in nature, the reality of 
a general, which no nominalist can admit. 
He, therefore, desires to call the reality to 
which a true universal proposition about 
natural phenomena corresponds, a ‘ uniformity.’ 
The implication of the word, thus used, is 
that the facts are, in themselves, entirely 
disconnected, and that it is the mind alone 
which unites them. One stone dropping to 
the earth has no real connection with another 
stone dropping to the earth. It is, surely, 
not difficult to see that this theory of uniformi¬ 
ties, far from helping to establish the validity 
of induction, would be, if consistently admitted, 
an insuperable objection to such validity. 


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