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What is Abductive Reasoning? Meaning.
Abductive Reasoning is a reasoning process that starts from observing facts, leading via intuition to a hypothesis, which is considered a viable explanation.
The concept of Abductive Reasoning was initially developed by American philosopher, mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) in the early years of the 20th century. Just before 1900 Pierce was studying the Theory of Inquiry, Modes of Inference and Explicative Hypothesis. Following Aristotle's basic modes of reasoning:
Pierce dedicated his attention to the logical form of abductive inference. Note that unlike deduction and in some sense induction, abduction can produce results that are incorrect. Hence the conclusions of abduction can only be made valid by separately checking them with a different method, either by deduction or exhaustive induction. However, it can still be useful as a heuristic, especially when something is known about the likelihood of different causes for B.
Steps in Abductive Reasoning. Process
An abductive reasoning process
And, according to Pierce, it would be the best explanation possible: what he calls Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE).
Pierce explained the abductive process as following:
This way of reasoning is particularly attractive and relevant because it is able to create new, breakthrough understanding that cannot be achieved via deduction or induction.
Example of Abductive Reasoning
A typical example of abductive reasoning can be found in the famous stories of Sherlock Holmes from A.C. Doyle. The reasoning behind Holmes’ logic is abductive: when he is called to solve a case, he begins collecting lots of clues and successively tries to formulate an hypothesis that can give the best explanation for the observed facts (deducted from the clues).
Abductive reasoning is a form of Dialogical Reasoning that, in order to come to IBE, needs a high level of dialectical rationality.
In practical terms it is also known as Retroductive Reasoning, since the reasoning process goes from consequence to antecedent.
Applications of Abductive Reasoning
Abduction or abductive reasoning is applied in many different contexts: from scientific research to artificial intelligence, medical diagnosis and juridical trials.
Based on the philosophical concept also certain management approaches have been shaped, such as Design Thinking, Lateral Thinking and Integrative Thinking. The debate on abductive reasoning is still open and, after Pierce’s original input, many philosophers and writers have contributed to its development, ranging from Karl Pooper to Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky.
Compare with: Analogical Strategic Reasoning | Pyramid Principle | Dialectical Enquiry | Plausibility Theory | Emotional Intelligence | Cause and Effect Diagram
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