Hempel’s paradox (20TH CENTURY)

Also known as the confirmation paradox, it was discovered by Carl Gustav Hempel (1905-1997).

The statement ‘All prime ministers live at 10 Downing Street’ tends to be confirmed by finding a kennel containing a dog, because this is an example of a dwelling that is not 10 Downing Street which is the home of a non-prime-minister; which is a logically equivalent statement.

However, the same process could be used to prove that all the roses in a large garden have green leaves by observing that all the plants with other-colored leaves are not roses, a much easier process.

The resolution of the paradox is to restrict the universe in which the search is made. However, the paradox is not a total surprise because non-mathematical induction is not a logical proof.

For example, the assertion that water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen is based on a study of a tiny proportion of the extant water, and it is conceivable that most of the rest is a compound of carbon and manganese.


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Hempel’s paradox


Proposed by the logician Carl Gustav Hempel in the 1940s to illustrate a contradiction between inductive logic and intuition.

Proper noun

Hempel’s paradox

  1. A paradox arising from the question of what constitutes evidence for a statement. Observing objects that are neither black nor ravens may formally increase the likelihood that all ravens are black, even though, intuitively, these observations are unrelated.

See also[edit]

  • nonraven
  • ravenness

3 thoughts on “Hempel’s paradox (20TH CENTURY)

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