[PDF Notes] Colligation of facts means the binding together or the mental union of a set of observed facts

Literally colligation means to bind together. Colligation of facts means the binding together or the mental union of a set of observed facts by means of a suitable notion.

It is the application of a suitable idea or notion to a number of actually observed phenomena.

According to Mill’s definition colligation of facts is the mental operation, which enables us to bring a number of actually observed phenomena under a description, or which enables us to sum up a number of details in a single proposition.

A passer-by accidentally comes to a building without knowing whether it is an academic institution, an administrative building or a private house. He enters into the building and finds class rooms, laboratories, library, Principal’s chamber, teacher’s common room etc.

He colligates these facts and brings them under the Idea College or educational institute. For the word college is suitably applicable to his observed phenomena. This can be presented by the following symbolic example-

S has the properties P., P2, Pi and P4

Whatever has the properties Pi, P2, P3 and P4 is P.

S is p

So far the characteristics of colligation of facts are concerned we find that it is the process of forming a concept. It establishes a notion but not a proposition. It can also be taken as an illustration of classification. For just as in classification there is mental grouping of facts so also in colligation of facts there is mental grouping of facts under some suitable idea.

Of course the observed phenomena may be expressed by a singular proposition; the building runs an educational institution in the above example. But in spite of that here the mental grouping is concerned only with one notion i.e. educational institution. Colligation of facts is based on observation of facts. Without observing facts, these cannot be brought under any idea.

There is no question of inductive leap here. We do not pass from certain observed facts to unobserved facts. Further from the symbolic example stated above, it appears that colligation of facts is more deductive than inductive in nature. The logic form of reasoning in colligation of facts is-

Whatever has the properties P,, P2, Pi and P4 is P

S has the properties P|, P2, P3 and P4

S is P

The above example shows that it is a kind of deduction. But the argument’ not purely formalistic in nature because the minor premise is based on observation of facts.

Unless something is empirically observed it cannot be classified under a suit able notion. So colligation of facts may be expressed in form of a deductive argument, but it cannot do away with observation unlike that of deduction where there is no appeal to facts.

The question of the law of causation or the law of uniformity of nature does not arise in case of colligation of facts. As different facts are observed and brought under a notion this process has nothing to do with the law of causation or the law of uniformity of nature.

It is a mental union of facts. But it does not explain facts unlike that of scientific induction. It simply brings a set of observed phenomena under some notion. It is like a process of classification but not an explanation of facts.

There is a good deal of controversy over the issue whether colligation of facts be considered as induction or not. William Whewell holds that colligation is the same as induction.

According to him induction makes a discovery and in colligation we also proceed in that direction of innovating phenomena. Further in induction there is also binding together of facts under a general concept. We observe instances of whales and find them to be mammals.

Then we bring the observed phenomena under the complex idea of mammalianness of whales. Because of these important resemblances between induction and colligation Whewell treats colligation of facts as the same as induction.

But J. S. Mill presents altogether a different view. He does not accept colligation of facts as an induction. According to Mill colligation should not be treated as induction. For there is no inference or establishment of a proposition in the conclusion.

Further simply binding together of facts under a suitable notion or describing those by help of an idea do not explain the facts. But in induction facts are explained scientifically for generalization. Hence Mill treats colligation as something subsidiary to induction but not proper induction.

The difference between Whewell and Mill over the issue is due to their difference with regard to the nature of induction. While Whewell regards induction as a matter of discovery Mill considers induction as a matter of proof. Further while Whewell gives more stress on the importance of hypothesis in induction Mill adds more stress on the importance of causal explanation in induction.

Because of these differences they treat colligation of facts from different angles. But it should be mentioned that all processes which colligate facts are not necessarily induction. For there are different areas like classification, description, definition etc. where facts are colligated, but they are not considered as induction.

So Whewell’s contention is not correct. Similarly though Mill does not consider colligation of facts as an induction he does it because of his overemphasis on proof of the conclusion and ascertainment of a causal relation. Mill’s contention that a causal connection is proved by the experimental methods is not correct.

All inductions do not aim at causal connection, nor is a causal connection proved in induction. So Mill’s denial of inductive status to colligation of facts is not on proper ground.

Thus colligation of facts is not induction for it does not possess the essential characteristics of induction. But non-the-less it has great importance so far formation of concepts is concerned. For forming an appropriate concept is a great exercise in intellectual discourse.

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