Introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), ‘abduction’ refers to the creative generation of explanatory hypotheses. The term denotes an inference that is frequently employed, in some form or other, both in everyday and in scientific reasoning. With important exceptions and qualification, many scholars view abduction as the strongest candidate for a third top level inference-type besides deduction and induction (aka ‘reasoning of the third kind’) or assign to it a crucial role in scientific and common-sense reasoning. Whether abduction is treated as an argument or as an inference, the mainstream view presupposes a tight connection between abduction and inference to the best explanation (IBE).
This talk critically evaluates this link to support a narrower view on abduction, as laid out in Yu & Zenker (2018). We claim that merely the hypothesis-generative aspect, but not the evaluative aspect, is properly abductive in the sense introduced by C. S. Peirce. Equating abduction with IBE (or understanding them as inseparable parts) unnecessarily complicates argument evaluation by leveling the status of abduction as a third reasoning mode (besides deduction and induction). Besides proposing a scheme for abductive argument along with critical questions, we suggest retaining abduction alongside IBE as related but distinct categories.
Yu, S., Zenker, F. (2018). Peirce Knew Why Abduction Isn’t IBE – A Scheme and Critical Questions for Abductive Argument. Argumentation, 32, 569–587. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-017-9443-9
Frank Zenker (Bogazici University, Istanbul)
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