For those who aren't familiar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning The originating philosopher is Charles Sanders Pierce (pragmatist I know).
In contrast to deduction or induction, abduction is described as a tool of hypothesis generation describing what might be true.
"The surprising fact, C, is observed; But if A were true, C would be a matter of course, Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true."
It is rightly described as guesswork but where does it fit if at all in the process? It seems common sense that generating a potential explanation out of many potential ones is a necessary part of processes such as the scientific method.
asked Feb 17 '12 at 12:07
There is little that I can add to the excellent comments so far by FCH (as of the date of this posting). If so-called "abductive reasoning" is offered as a form of "reasoning," like induction or deduction, then FCH (and even the questioner) are absolutely correct: it's not. In fact, the Wikipedia article mentions the logical fallacy of "re-affirming the consequent," the fallacy of concluding that P logically must be true if P implies Q and Q is true. Maybe R implies Q, too, and R is true while P is false.
Still, I can see a place for a process essentially similar to "abduction" in the very earliest stages of induction. You have a chaotic mass of concrete data from observations, and you're trying to make sense of it -- you're trying to integrate it into something more coherent. What are some possible explanations implied by the data? One can't claim to have achieved a full integration if one's suspected explanation doesn't quite fit all of the available data, but the tentative potential explanation may nevertheless help you to find the right path to an eventually valid solution. (It may also turn out to be a totally wrong dead end. You won't know until you investigate and theorize further.)
answered Feb 19 '12 at 15:17
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