Deduction, Induction, Abduction: The Quick and Dirty Low Down on How to Quickly Distinguish Them

“Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” (If the two premises in a deductive syllogism are true, the conclusion is 100% certain.)

“Socrates has a runny nose this morning. It’s allergy season. Socrates probably has an allergy.” (Induction deals with probabilities, and so is distinguished from deduction, which deals with 100% certainties.)

“Theories that might account for Socrates’s nose running are the following: allergy; a cold virus; psychosomatic illness; the devil; a side effect of medication; an invisible gremlin tickling Socrates’s nose with a tiny invisible feather. For a variety of reasons, I choose allergy as the best explanation.” (Abduction is reasoning to the best explanation. In trying to get at the truth of a matter, you don’t want just any old probable hypothesis that accounts for the facts surrounding it, you want to lay out your options and reason your way to what appears to be the best hypothesis.)

That was painless, don’t you think?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Deduction, Induction, Abduction: The Quick and Dirty Low Down on How to Quickly Distinguish Them

  1. Paradigm says:

    Abduction sounds like how weak poker players think. They put their opponent on a hand and play accordingly. A good player puts his opponent on a probability distribution instead.

  2. Pingback: Bullshit Detector | Prometheus Unbound

  3. Pingback: Baloney Detector | Prometheus Unbound

  4. Logic Bomb says:

    You didn’t quite capture the essence of induction. Induction is predictive. Abduction tries to explain what you already see.
    The example you gave for induction is just an example of abduction… best explanation. Here’s an example of induction: There’s a high pollen count here today. Socrates is allergic to pollen and is here breathing this air today. So Socrates probably has a runny nose today.

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