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13: Inductive Reasoning

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    • Contributed by Bradley H. Dowden
    • Professor (Philosophy) at California State University Sacramento

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. This is usually good reasoning. It’s probably a duck. Just don't assume that it must be a duck for those reasons. The line of reasoning is not sure-fire. It is strong inductive reasoning, but it is not strong enough to be deductively valid. Deductive arguments are arguments intended to be judged by the deductive standard of, "Do the premises force the conclusion to be true?" Inductive arguments are arguments intended to be judged by the inductive standard of, "Do the premises make the conclusion probable?" So, the strengths of inductive arguments range from very weak to very strong. This chapter focuses specifically on the nature of the inductive process because inductive arguments play such a central role in our lives. We will begin with a very important and very common kind of inductive argument, generalizing from a sample. Then later we will consider the wide variety of inductive arguments. As we shall see, inductive reasoning is about seeing patterns and making claims that extend beyond the data at hand.

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