Sense – Experience and its Relation to Universality and Induction[1]

Ahmad Ahmadi


What is sense – experience?

It was about fourteen years ago that I saw the kiwi fruit for the first time. I touched its fluffs, then peeled it and ate it. About fifty years ago, when I was fifteen years old, I was stung by a scorpion. I felt the pain so harshly and quickly that I immediately removed the scorpion from my hand and killed it. However, I was deeply suffering from pain for at least one hour.

There are too many instances of such tangible and empirical incidents which might take place for the first time in every one’s life, and every individual has experienced them as many times as the number of his sense inputs. The reason is that each empirical and tangible form of what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste has had a beginning for everyone and has been his first experience.

It goes without saying that in each experience there should be established a specific relationship, or as earlier philosophers say, a special condition between the sensing organ and the very nature of the external thing which is sensed; otherwise, nothing would be experienced. In the above two examples of the kiwi fruit and the scorpion, if I had put the fruit in my mouth without peeling it, its fluffs would have hurt my tongue and it would not have had a pleasant taste. Thus when the peeled kiwi fruit touches the surface of our palate and tongue and the special interactions take place, its pleasant taste is felt and an image of it remains in our mind. Likewise, if the scorpion had not stuck to my hand, if it did not have a sting, or if instead of my hand, it had stung my nail or shoe, there would have been no sting wound or pain and no image would have remained in my mind after fifty years. However, as soon as a special relation, like any other natural relation between two natural things, is established, inevitably, there appears a kind of effect,[2] and, thereafter, an image or form is developed in mind. As we cannot stop the fire from burning and poison from being poisonous, we cannot stop the development of this image or mental form in mind.

Accordingly, it can be said that, firstly, the relationship between the subject and object, apart from certain manipulations and presuppositions of the mind, is a natural relation and a cause-effect one, enjoying the same commensurability of cause and effect. In other words, the mental image of being stung by a scorpion never emerges out of chewing the kiwi fruit and vice versa. It can be clearly understood why a small fire produces weak burning and a weak mental image, and a big fire produces deep burning and a clear and distinctive image. The reason for such a distinction and clarity in attributing each effect to its specific source of effect is that we are truly connected to the sensed object itself through sense organs and perceive its effect through the union of the knower and the known in the source of effect and dependence[3] in our sense organs. Such interaction, commensurability, extension, and the dependence of effect (mental image) on the source of effect (external object) are objective realities enjoying a solid relation that, like all other interactions and relations of natural objects, can never be penetrated into.

Secondly, the idea that has appeared in the mind creates a manner or quality for the mind which did not exist previously. And these very mental images, before becoming the object of judgment, truly express something and represent it in the outside.

Thirdly, if man lived absolutely alone and did not need to have relations with others, he could provide for his life only through those images, exactly in the same way that animals do, of course if we claim that they have no judgment and satisfy the bare necessities of their life by the same images. In other words, both human beings and animals acquire a new imaginary knowledge[4] through each image which possesses special effects without being related to other images. Through perceiving that image and its effects, the knower provides the appropriate reactions. When animals, particularly horses, dogs, and elephants find good food somewhere, they can identify its place, i.e., they have an image of it and always go after food to that place. Human beings, even the least intelligent of them, are no different; when they experience something for the first time and develop an image of it, if it is pleasant or needed, they will go after it, i.e., the object of the image they have in mind, and if they find it damaging or detrimental, they avoid even the place they found the object of this image. Now if they find it neither pleasant nor unpleasant, for example, stones, bushes, trees, animals and other sensible things which are exposed to our senses, their images remain in our mind but we take no heed of them, until we confront the object of these images and another image falls on the previous image and refreshes it.

In fact, each first experience produces a special effect or image which always represents its object, and the repetition of each experience might create a pleasant or unpleasant image or non of them. What happens in the second time or other times, according to the principle of identity, would be the same as what happened the first time provided that all the conditions and concomitants are the same as what they were previously.

If the conditions, factors or states of affairs change, or if the situation of the external object and sense organs undergo alternations and the same object is viewed from a new profile or another angle, there would result an experience which is completely different from the first one. When comparing these two experiences with each other, we see the same object from two different angles. For this reason and also because of the unity of the experiences and representing the object of experiences form two angles, the combination of the two experiences is more complete than each of them. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the first experience, since it is an experience, is complete. Besides, if a third experience is obtained under exactly the same conditions of the first and second ones, the created image would not yield anything more than them; however, if it is repeated under different conditions, it would provide us with a new image or images of the surface, layer, profile or another angle of the previous object. The sum total of these three experiences, not because of each of them in isolation, but because of showing the object form three different angles, is more complete than the other two experiences. The same holds true about the fourth, fifth, … experiences, too. Since each of the new experiences which represent a new angle and surface could be considered either in isolation or in combination with others, it can be claimed that if the causes and concomitants of the object of each experience or the combination of them can be realized as a composite whole that can continue till infinity, the experiences are realizable.

Now, it is time to assess the validity of experience in the light of reflecting on the foregoing statements. Here the question is whether by experience we mean the first relationship between our sense organs with tangible objects in the outside, the repetition of the same experience, or the repetition of that experience under different conditions and with other causes and concomitants. If we mean the first, apparently no one denies the fact that our images have to begin from a specific point, and our first image, like all natural and objective issues, is the result of certain conditions and causes, and there is a necessary and homogeneous relation between this picture or image and those causes and conditions. To put is more clearly, salinity originates from something that we call salt and sweetness arises from something which we might later call honey or sugar. If we have the least doubt concerning this necessary and homogeneous relationship, it would be pointless to deal with forthcoming experiences. Since starting a new experience is based on the assumption that the new object of experience enjoys the same conditions, causes and concomitants of the previous one and will naturally have the same effect on us (this is the confirmation of both the effect and the congruity); otherwise, if we doubt the assumption of the unity of conditions in the essence of efficacy or the congruity between the effect and the effective, it would be in vain to start an experience for gaining certainty, since this experience might be contradictory or even there might not emerge any effect. On the other hand, even if an effect is caused, it might not be the very effect that we expect from the experience.

Therefore, we must accept that in the very first experience itself and in the very first relation between the sense organ and the external object, due to the necessity of efficacy or the cause-effect relationship, a picture or image has necessarily been produced only from the surface, angle or layer which has been in contact with the sense organ. In case this image remains in the same way and does not lose its color and strength, we would not gain anything new if we repeat it several times under the same conditions. However, if the image has been blurred, the new experience that has been obtained under the previous conditions, will only render it to its primary form, and if the conditions change and, for example, we obtain a picture or image of a new angle of the external object, it would be a new experience which in combination with the previous experience will provide a better perspective of that object (from two angles). Thus the repetition of an experience in the real sense of the word – repeating the experience under exactly the same conditions – is void of producing new knowledge or expanding the previous one.

In conclusion it can be said that empirical image, as it is and without any judgment, is in fact a kind of knowledge and the basis of any prospective knowledge. The saying “One who lacks sense perception, lacks knowledge” refers to this very fact. For, one who has no sense of smelling, is deprived of the images of odors; one who lacks the sense of touch is deprived of the images arising out of touching things, such as coarseness, softness, flatness, hardness, … ; and one who lacks eyes, ears, or taste is deprived of the images which are obtained through these means as well as the kinds of knowledge which are based on such images.

The principle of identity and universalization

Each of the aforementioned ideas is simple and uni-dimensional when experienced for the fist time. In other words, they are all obtained at the same time and without separating one feature from the other. And as mentioned before, it is a personal knowledge that can provide for human and animal necessities; however, there comes a time at one of the stages of man’s mental growth that he deals with the most basic, rational, philosophical, scientific and logical principle of identity. Of course, it should be emphasized that the exact time for this is not quite clear to us and differs from one individual to another concerning the level of his natural intelligence, family conditions, and social status. When such a developed mind confronts a specific and objective referent, he can say that whenever all the conditions and concomitants that cause an individual or thing are realized in their entirety, this individual or thing will be realized; however, he can never determine a specific time or borderline for this “whenever”. In other words, he assumes that the repetition of this event takes place at indefinite times. Of course, such an indefiniteness is in conformity with infinity. Since when we say if A, then B, it is possible for A to be repeated for an indefinite number of times, only a few times, or many times; however, it cannot continue until infinity. However, it is emphasized that the realization of an infinite number of objects or events in the world is impossible or unknown, and that infinity is only an obscure mental concept, which even the mind itself is not aware of its depth and reality. The assumption of truth will only be meaningful if we take an individual or a specific and definite collection, although sensible, tangible, and empirical, into consideration and say that whenever all the causes, conditions, and concomitants for the realization of this individual or collection are realized, identical individuals or collections would be realized as many times as the number of the realizations of such causes and conditions. Here, some questions might arise: “Is universality or universal anything other than this?” “Are the meanings of “assumption” and the “assumption of  being true about multiple things” different from this?” and “Should concept, as Kant assumes, develop invariably before experience to be considered a universal?” If the universal is considered universal due to mental assumption and validation, its a priori and a posteriori forms would be the same. Since it is the mind which dictates: When the causes and conditions of a specific individual or collection continue even until infinity, the concept or quiddity that I have from it, whether its object is sensible, tangible and empirical or unempirical such as the objects of mathematical concepts, it will be realized until infinity, too. In these circumstances, there is no difference between a priori and a posteriori objects. Therefore, the following remark made by Kant does not hold true:

Experience teaches us that something is the way it is, but it does not teach us that it cannot be anything other than what it is now, since if we deal with a proposition which becomes a necessary to perception when perceived, it will be an a priori proposition … Moreover, experience grants only a kind of relative and assumed universality to its judgments, rather than a real and accurate one.[5]

The reason for refuting the above is that the universality which has been obtained on the basis of Kant’s definition and through the referred method from experience is a real and accurate universality. And the attempts that Kant has made have not resulted in anything other than this conclusion.

However, it is essential to bear in mind that, as mentioned before, the mind forms the universal through assumption and validation after finding an individual and perceiving its concept and essence. Nevertheless, whether the assumed object for this concept will be realized in the outside or not can only be determined through gaining the knowledge of its causes and concomitants, conclusive reasoning or experiencing the referents. In other words, after finding a referent or referents in the fields of senses and experience which are compatible with the first experienced case for which universality was assumed, we will necessarily understand or judge that this individual, at least on the surface, is the same as the first one, although different from it beyond the appearances. For instance, when we find an apple sweet in the first experience and then, through the realization of similar causes and concomitants to those of the first apple, we find another apple which is as sweet as the first one, according to the judgment of reason, since the causes and concomitants of the coming into being of both apples are the same, the second should be similar to the first in every aspect, both in the appearance and in essence. And all their effects and features, including their sweetness, should necessarily be related to the other components and sources of such appearances, whether substance or accident, through a solid cause-effect unity. However, if we mainly relay on sense perception, through which only sense features, such as sweetness, can be perceived and which has no way beyond features and appearances, we can merely say that the feature of sweetness is identical in both apples although they might be different from each other beyond appearance (Here, it is necessary to have a detailed discussion on the nature of the relationship between accidents, effects, features or appearances, and their source, whether substance or accident. Is this relationship essential or accidental? Is there any commensurability between them or not? And if there is, how could it be proved?).

On the basis of what was discussed concerning the meaning of the universal and the processes of its emergence and development, unlike the great preceding philosophers, we cannot simply say that our senses only provide the grounds for the appearance of universal concepts and it is the soul or the mind that makes them. The reason for this is that there might arise certain questions such as the following:

a. What is the relation between this preparation and the mind’s process of universal formation?

b. What happens that when sense organs are affected by a burning fire, the soul creates the concept of a big fire and when they are affected by a little warmth, the soul creates the concept of weak fire?

c. Why does the mind create the concept of pleasant sweetness when our sense of taste is affected by honey, and the concept of a kind of sweetness mixed with sourness when the same sense is affected by grape juice?

d. Why does the mind form the concept of Hasan when seeing Hasan and the concept of Mahmud when seeing  Mahmud?

e. How could we bridge the hidden but bottomless gap between the preparatory role of the senses and the concept formation role of the mind (considering the fact that the formed concept is correct, harmonious, appropriate, commensurate, similar, and, according to the Transcendent philosophy, identical with what has emerged in the senses)?

f. How could one prove the unity of the structure of recognition from the beginning of passivity and vulnerability of senses to effects to the formation of a concept which is the extension of that passivity and vulnerability and, in a sense, the same as it (assuming the preparatory role of the senses)?

g. Is this a kind of magic that the senses take part in a series of interactions and the soul or the mind forms a concept without having a natural relation and structural unity with that interaction?

h. Are we then justified to firmly claim that this concept is related and united with the interaction?

i. Are we not altering the revealing and inventive nature of science if we follow this approach?

j. Are we not disrupting the structural unity of knowledge in this way?

Therefore, if we accept that there is a natural and structural relationship between the senses’ providing the grounds and the mind’s concept formation, we should accept that this concept is the product of the same interaction, and whatever the mind does is on the basis of that interaction. As a result, the referred gap would be created and the revealing and inventive nature of knowledge will not be damaged.

The author believes that the fruitless, prolonged and extensive disputes that have always been held among nominalists, conceptualists and realists are the result of falling far apart from the correct definition of the universal. Such disputes might come to an end in the light of the definition provided here, since none of them present a conclusive and convincing definition.

It is also impossible to agree with Kant in this regard, since he considers the universal, the particular and the individual as conceptual notions, and tries to clarify and justify the universal through resorting to his extremely complicated theory of schema and time. In his view, as mentioned in the outset of this article, the universal is not basically obtained from experience. The aim of the present paper is in fact to challenge this view.

If the definition provided here is far from any kind of ambiguity, we might be able to evaluate and examine the many other views in the regard.

The common definition for universal

There is still another account provided for universal: The mind first develops an individual idea of a person such as Mahmud. Then he obtains another form such as Hamid’s face. Later he compares them with each other, omits their personal characteristics and retains their commonalities. This is called abstraction and peeling. It appears that the peeled form is like the face of a coin which has become a little flat and blurred, has lost its color and cannot show the features of the coin clearly. Now, if we add Ahmad to Mahmud and Hamid and follow the same process of abstraction and peeling, the derived common form will be almost associable with all three persons; however, its representation of each of them will be blurred and colorless. The more the number of people increases, for example, until it gets to a hundred, the less the accuracy of the representation and indication. Nevertheless, the essence of this peeling, abstraction and manipulation of the mind is what has been obtained from two, three… and one hundred people and can never be applied to a greater number of people; otherwise, it will be a corollary to the principle. Therefore, it would be absurd to claim that the universal or this manipulated and abstracted form can be applied to one hundred and one people, let alone to an infinite number of cases. However, it is possible to say that when the mind abstracts a form, following another intention and through using the same principle of identity, it makes the judgment that this abstracted form can be applied to an infinite number of objects provided that their causes and concomitants are realized.

This assumption is, however, a deviation from the point of discussion, since the assumption here is to attain the universal through this process of peeling and abstraction and not through resorting to new intentions or the principle of identity. For, in this case, there would be no need to abstraction; rather, as previously discussed in detail, each single and individual person, such as Mahmud, can become a universal if the principle of identity is applied. In sum, if universal means a concept which is merely obtained through abstraction and peeling, it can only be applied to the number of cases which have been abstracted and peeled. That number might be two, three, ten, a hundred, a thousand, or more. Obviously, such a concept will grow bigger as the number of cases increases and there would be no limit to it. It will even be different from individual to individual, since it is possible for a person to have seen only three individuals of one species and created a universal concept through abstracting them, and another one doing the same on the basis of having observed seven or more individuals, etc.

However, if by universal we mean a concept to which the mind pays a special attention in addition to abstracting it, and says that this concept, according to the principle of identity and through the realization of the conditions and causes, is possible and applicable to an infinite number of individuals and objects, there would be no need to abstraction and peeling and, even without them, any individual can be included in the domain of the application of the principle of identity. Yet, no matter what the number of individuals involved in the process of abstraction is, whether a small one or a big one, one can take the abstracted form into consideration and claim that, whatever the number of individuals from whom this form has been obtained, the same individuals will be realized if  the causes and concomitants for their realization are provided. Here, no judgment can be issued for anyone other than them. 


If the foregoing discussion suffices in elucidating the essence of experience and the process of the development of the empirical concept and the formation of the universal, a great number of issues will undergo massive change. Some instances are provided below:

A .Essential Validity

Anything which is experienced for the first time enjoys essential, natural, existential and cause – effect validity. It is this very experience that provides the basis for empirical knowledge which is equal to having the first sense contact with the external object and resorting to the principle of identity at the same time.

B. The criterion of truth

The criterion of truth in sense and experience in the first place is the relation between the sense organ and the external object which is naturally established. There is no place for error in it, and if its effect is retained in mind in the form it was created and if it is correctly traced when trying to prove its truth, we will come to the first stage and that initial empirical relation. Now, if the second experience takes place and its conditions are the same as the previous conditions, and if absolute care is taken, the resulting experience will be the same as the first one. And if the conditions change, we should perceive through the available evidence and reasoning that the present mental form that has been obtained from experience is the same as the one obtained from the first experience.

However, the problem of the mind from a psychological point of view is that it does not retain the picture of the surface or part that it obtains during the empirical connection in its original form. Or it cannot practically retain it in that form and goes beyond it. For example, it extends the obtained layer of the object to the layer or layers that it has not obtained yet. However, this problem should not be the reason for overlooking the criterion for the validity and truth of experience within its own limits.

C. Induction

Unlike the common definition for induction, indicating that induction means seeking for particulars in order to prove the general principle, on the basis of the foregoing discussion, induction never proves the general principle. This is because if the newly found individual is the same as the individual which was the basis and organ of the first experience in every respect, it will not provide us with a new kind of knowledge. And if it is different from the initial individual in its effects, we have not arrived at a new conclusion from our search and have not formulated a general principle or rule. To tell the truth, when we experience, for instance, the falling of an object in a specific place, according to the same principle of identity, we can claim that whenever all the causes and conditions for this event or incident are realized in their totality, the same event will be repeated. Now, if we perform the same experience in another place and come up with exactly the same event[6], we perceive that the spatial and temporal distance between these two incidents play no role in their occurrence. We can also consider this as a kind of search for the references of that generalized personal experience and state that when all the conditions are provided, another reference for that concept can be found in this spatio-temporal distance. This is a big discovery to learn that both spatial points are similar and the same object has the same effects in both of them.

At this time, if the second experience is carried out with the same object in a place which is three hundred thousand kilometers far from the earth and witness a different incident of falling, that is, to observe that the object, instead of falling on the earth, moves towards the moon, we will naturally conclude that we have not come up with the reference for the concept which had resulted form the first experience. It goes without saying that the causes and conditions, including the physical location, have been influential in the occurrence of these two incidents. Besides, we have to take them into consideration in every experience, and this is a great discovery in itself. Following the same method, the second experience can be formulated in the form of a general rule. As a result, it can be said that whenever this specific object stands at a distance of three hundred thousand kilometers from the earth and the same causes and conditions are provided, it will be gravitated towards the moon.

In case this explanation is clear enough, the above-mentioned definition of induction will truly be a rootless and unfounded one. In fact, in a world whose many points are spatially different from each other, the effects of an object in the poles would be completely different from its effects in the equator, by the sea, on the top of the mountain or at different distances form the earth, for example, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or one million kilometers from the earth. Sometimes, it also happens that certain organisms such as flowers, plants and animals undergo change form one point of time to another. No problem is solved and no general rule or principle is proved through going from one point to another (induction), or from one organism (flower, plant or animal) to another of the same species. There is no general principle or rule which can be proved by discovering other samples or referents, however great in number. Is it the case that we have presupposed a rule and now we are trying to search for its instances and cases of applications and prove it? Or is the case that after experiencing the first case, we derive a rule out of it and seek for similar cases and instances?

The first alternative is not admissible, since it is not quite clear how many individuals and instances one should observe to prove the presupposed rule. It is an approved fact that perfect induction, which means observing all the instances of a general concept that is indeterminate and indefinite, is irrational and unwise and that incomplete induction does not prove anything. Besides, it requires that the demonstration of that very ambiguous and undefined principle or rule begins from the first experience and becomes more complete through its gradual repetition, but never reaches certain demonstration.

The second alternative is only correct in the form discussed here; otherwise, it requires clarification. On the basis of what was said, the definition for induction will basically change and turn into what follows: Induction means the search for finding an instance that is exactly like the individual observed in the first experience and whose concept has obtained generality on the basis of the principle of identity…

In fact, instead of trying to prove the truth of induction by means of a hidden deduction in the way that our predecessors did, we will have an induction in the following form: In the first experience of a certain event for a specific object, for example the falling of this object in certain conditions, if all the causes and conditions are present, this fall will take place. Nevertheless, in induction or in the second experience, we have witnessed such a fall (+instance); therefore, those conditions are realized and both cases follow the same judgment.

When the definition changes, there would be no need to the famous justification stating that incidental fact is neither permanent nor in majority, so that unfounded criticisms are targeted at it or, like the martyr Sadr, one will have to go through an uneven and complicated path to prove that we can attain certainty through induction, and at last because of failing to prove it, to resort to the common method of the science of usul (theology), that is, to believe that what we obtain through induction is of a customary and estimative nature.

To tell the truth, the problem of induction is rooted in the discussion of universals. If the basics of the issue of universals is deeply studied and solved (and I am sure that the method suggested here will solve the problem), the problem of induction will also be solved in a fundamental way.

D. Voilating the theory of falsifiability

This theory is also violated in the following manner: Karl Popper, who proposed this theory, believes that the criterion for the truth of a theory is its falsifiability. He maintains: “Verifiability is not the only criterion for proving the scientific nature of a system; rather, its logical structure should be such that it can be falsified by means of conducting empirical experiments. Each empirical and scientific system should be falsifiable through experience. Thus the proposition of “tomorrow it will rain here or it will not” is not considered an empirical one, since it is not falsifiable, while the proposition of “it will be raining here tomorrow” is an empirical one.[7]

It is true to say that the logical structure of a scientific system should be prone to experimentation and it can also be derived from the same definition of sense experience, for the restriction of empirical sciences to the field of experiment is identical and naturally axiomatic. However, the basic problem of Popper’s other claim is that he considers the falsifiability and rejection of a scientific system as the criteria for its being scientific (scientific-empirical).

Here, the main question is: What is the meaning of the falsifiability of a scientific principle or law? Which of the laws of nature are falsifiable? Are laws, particularly the laws of nature which provide the basis for other laws, essentially falsifiable? The world of nature follows an inflexible and unrepeatable process that is not prone to exception and whatever happens there follows the same laws. For example, a healthy bee flies with its wings and when it loses its wings, it dies. This is the law of nature. It is not the case that nature derives or borrows its laws from other places or that one part of its laws becomes the model for another part. Nature has its own laws and we draw our scientific laws or theories form the laws of nature. Now we should see how a scientific law is formulated and refuted. When we see that a beam of light which is radiated under an angle of 10 degrees is reflected under the same angle, we explain this phenomenon through formulating a general rule and say: “the angle of the reflection of light is equal to its angle of radiation.” But which light do we have in mind? This only holds true about the same light with the same causes and conditions. If we observe that in some other place a beam of light is radiated under an angle of 10 degrees but is reflected under an angle of 25 degrees, is the rule for the first light under the same conditions violated? Or is it the case that another light with a different structure has been observed or that the observed light is the same as the first one, but with different causes and conditions? Naturally, one should say that either the second light is different from the first light or that the conditions and concomitants of the radiation and reflection of the two lights are different. In either case, the second event is not an instance of the universal rule which has been obtained from experiencing the first light.

According to Popper, “It is not possible to prove whether scientific laws are real universals or pseudo-universals through discussion and reasoning. This problem is also one of those problems which can only be solved by means of making an agreement over a convention. Considering the methodological aspect of the problem of induction, I propose to consider the natural laws as real universal propositions. I believe that this approach will be beneficial both for the time being and for future. In this way, we consider the natural laws as unverifiable propositions which can be stated in the following way: ‘It is the case in all temporal and spatial points that …’ Unlike these propositions, those referring to specific temporal and spatial points are called “particular” or “individual” propositions.”[8]

As we can see, since Popper had not grasped the nature of the universal and the process of its development in mind, he had to find refuge only in “making an agreement over a convention”, and this act of surrendering to a mentally-posited and conventional issue – an agreement whose sides are not known - merely for the sake of its present and future usefulness, looks more like a kind of unilateral obligation rather than a mutual agreement. That he says “we consider the natural laws as unverifiable propositions which can be stated in the following way: “It is the case in all temporal and spatial points that …” is completely against the principality of experience in science. This is because when one begins from experiencing a particular sensible thing, he has no right to say, “It is the case in all temporal and spatial points that …”, for he has only experienced that single sensible and particular object. How could he make such a big generalization and jump from a personal time and place to all times and places? How does he know that the next place would be the same as the previous one?

He further says, “the theories of natural sciences, particularly those that we call natural laws, are logically in the form of real universal proposition. Therefore, we can state them in the form of an antithesis of real existential proposition or the so-called non-existential propositions (or propositions indicating non-existence). For example, the law of the permanence of energy can be stated as follows: “There is no permanently dynamic system”. And the hypothesis of basic electrical charge can be expressed as: “there is no electrical charge which is not a multiple of the basic electrical charge”.

It can be seen that according to this way of expression, the nature of natural laws can be considered of the prohibition type. Natural laws do not indicate the existence or occurrence of incidents; rather, they deny certain events. They tell us that some objects and events are non-existent, as if they consider the existence or occurrence of those objects or events as being prohibited and impossible.

That is why natural laws are falsifiable. Even if we confirm a personal proposition which is an exception to the rule and tells us about the existence of an object (or occurrence of an event) that is prohibited by our law, the law is refuted (for example, confirming the existence of a permanently dynamic system in some place falsifies the law of the permanence of energy).[9]

In this way, we understand that Popper, apparently for justifying the same issue of falsifiability, has transformed affirmative laws to negative laws or propositions. However, experts are aware of the problems and contradictions which are associated with negative and attributive propositions. Thus there is a great place for discussion concerning the theory that “natural laws do not indicate the existence or occurrence of incidents and only deny certain events, and that they denote the non-existence of certain objects and events, as if they prohibit their existence or occurrence or consider them impossible”. This is because an affirmative law or proposition is changed to a negative proposition without a logical justification, and through using the expression “as if”, which has no place in demonstrative discussions, has considered falsifiability as the criterion for the truth of natural sciences.

In fact, Popper accepts a universal proposition or scientific or natural law without any objective proof or reason and merely due to its present and future usefulness and efficiency on the basis of agreement, and then changes this unfounded universality into a negative issue or something that creates prohibition and limitations, is subject to falsification, and is invalidated immediately after the appearance of a contradictory case. Therefore, no rule can ever be considered foolproof in natural sciences, since it is possible to generalize a proposition or law merely on the basis of personal interests or policies. In this case, we are worried at every moment about the occurrence of an unexpected incident to invalidate our law. This might be the reason that Popper has called one of his books “Unended Quest” (useless search).

Nevertheless, on the basis of the explanation provided here for the formation and appearance of the universal in mind and the nature and structure of induction, the falsity of the theory of falsification is clearly visible. For, according to that universal basis, a single objective and empirical individual or individuals are transformed into a unitary compound. In the light of the most axiomatic principle of epistemology, that is, the principle of identity, with the features recounted before, that individual or those individuals that have turned into a unitary compound, have been generalized to other objective objects whose existence is presupposed. Now, any individual that possesses the features of that individual or collection of individuals, would function as an instance of that universal or proposition. Likewise, any individual or group of individuals that does not conform to them is not an instance for this universal and cannot be included in it so that it might confirm or falsify it. Confirmation or falsification would be meaningful when there is first a universal proposition or law in its common sense of the word, then we doubt its truth and later there is found a new instance which can be included in it, and, supposing the truth of induction, confirms it or, through confirming the theory of falsifiability, invalidates it. However, if the meaning of the universal is the same as what was described here, there would be no place for the discussion of inclusion, confirmation and falsification, and in the words of jurisprudents, the individual or group of individuals would be totally outside the law rather than being considered an exception to it.

Therefore, in the example of light, indicating that “the angle of the reflection of light is equal to its angle of radiation”, instead of “light”, without resorting to logical quantifiers, we should generally say: “the reflection angle of this sensible individual light is equal to its radiation angle”. Consequently, according to the principle of identity, whenever and wherever all the causes and conditions for the realization of this sensible individual light are provided, its reflection and radiation angles will be equal. Now, if we observe in some place that the reflection and radiation angles of a beam of light are equal, this light can be considered as an instance of that universal; in other words, it would be a perfectly similar instance to the first basic individual. And if we see that its radiation angle is 10 degrees and its reflection angle is 25 degrees, we learn that the structure of this light is different from the previous light. Or it can be concluded that the causes and conditions are transformed and the necessary unity for identity is not materialized and, in fact, we have called light as such in these two cases mainly because of nominal commonality. However, considering the structures, causes, concomitants and the conditions for the radiation or reflection of the two beams of light, they do not share the same nature. As a matter of fact, the second light is not at all related to the first one, is not an instance of it, and is not included in it so that it can confirm or refute it. A light whose radiation and reflection angles are both 10 degrees is completely different from one whose radiation and reflection angles are 10 and 25 degrees, respectively. They have two completely different series of effects and only share the same common name. Otherwise, it is impossible for a real thing, enjoying the unity of all conditions, to have two different angles of reflections, once 10 degrees and once 25 degrees.

Moreover, the statement of “if we say all swans are white and then find a black one, that universal proposition is falsified” is not correct. The reason is that if we formulate a universal on the basis of what was explained before, the black swan was not included in the universal proposition from the very beginning so that finding an instance of it refutes the related proposition.

As a matter of fact, falsifiability or falsification is only meaningful when a universal is inappropriately and exaggeratedly generalized. In this case, when there is found a contradicting case, the falsity of that incorrect generalization will be discovered; however, it does not mean that the correct or universal law in the real sense of the word is essentially and necessarily fallible.

Accordingly, in Popper’s theory the principle of the necessity of verifiability in empirical sciences is correct and originates from the definition of sense experience. Yet, demonstrating the truth of the universal propositions and laws of these sciences through resorting to falsifiability and even through the theory of inductive confirmation is unjustified, since these theories, like many other theories, have gone astray in recognizing the nature, meaning and signification of the universal and the process of its formation in mind, and, naturally in perceiving the many issues and problems which originate from or are related to universal laws.



[1]. It is necessary to point out that the present discussion is a completely epistemological one which is merely related to sense experience as one of the tools for establishing the relationship between the mind and sensible empirical objects. However, whether the soul is material or immaterial, or whether it has any experiences other than sense experience, as the mystics and friends of God do, is not related to the discussion here and should be dealt with elsewhere. One who talks about sense experience and finding sense instances is not logically allowed to consider the soul or the mind material in nature merely due to their possessing sense experience, or negate their having experiences other than sense experience. Because, proving or attributing a quality or predicate to a subject does not deny other qualities and predicates to it. Proving an object does not negate things other than it.


[2]. Frankly speaking, I would like to say that, unlike Hume and his followers, I believe in causality and the objective necessary relation between cause and effect. I also believe that the least alternation in the principle of causality will impair cognition and lead to absolute skepticism. Refer to my article entitled “A Critical Study of Hume’s Idea of Causality”, published in Ayati Husn, comprising a collection of articles in memory of Ayatullah Hasan Amuli.I also believe that the soul in the stage of perception can attain the effective effect in its sense organ. Refer to my article entitled “The Union of the Knower and the Known and Its Relation to Causality,” published in Shariah Khira, written in memory of the late ‘Allàmah J‘afari.


[3]. It is an important point that we find the appearance of phenomenon, or in the words of Islamic philosophers, sensible by itself, in nomena itself and not in anything separate form it. Thus the objection made to Kant’s philosophy concerning the unknown nature of nomena and the one made to Islamic philosophy concerning the unknown nature of sensible accident cannot be made to this theory. Refer to “The Union of the Knower and the Known and its Relation to Causality”.


[4]. Hence, it can be truly claimed that knowledge is the distributor of both concept and judgment. Thus concept is knowledge as well as cognition.


[5]. Critique of Pure Reason, p. 43 – 4.


[6]. The fact is that since the world, particularly on the basis of the theory of trans – substantial motion, is in flux, neither in width nor in length is it possible to draw a distinct borderline among events. The permanent essences of the Peripatetic philosophers or formulas of physics, chemistry and other modern sciences have clear applications only in the realm of the mind. However, it is practically impossible to exercise such clarity or accuracy outside the mind. It is true that the concepts we have in mind from colors such as black, white, green and blue are quite distinct from each other, yet, in the outside world, there seems to exist a connected spectrum of colors. The color white itself is a combination of several colors and there are a great number of shades of colors from one color to another. As a matter of fact, only a few parts of this connected reality are perceived by our senses and the common background of these parts and the unperceived parts are not subject to our perception.


[7]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery, translated by Seyyed Hosein Kamali. Ilmi wa Farhangi Publication, p. 56.


[8]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 83.


[9]. Ibid, p. 89 – 90.




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