Peirce and the autonomy of abductive reasoning

Erkenntnis 37 (1):1 - 26 (1992)
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Essential to Peirce's distinction among three kinds of reasoning, deduction, induction and abduction, is the claim that each is correlated to a unique species of validity irreducible to that of the others. In particular, abductive validity cannot be analyzed in either deductive or inductive terms, a consequence of considerable importance for the logical and epistemological scrutiny of scientific methods. But when the full structure of abductive argumentation — as viewed by the mature Peirce — is clarified, every inferential step in the process can be seen to dissolve into familiar forms of deductive and inductive reasoning. Specifically, the final stage is a special type of practical inference which, if correct, is deductively valid, while the creative phase, surprisingly, is not inferential at all. In neither is abduction a type of inference to the best explanation. The result is a major reassessment of the relevance of Peirce's views to contemporary methodological studies.



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Tomis Kapitan
Indiana University, Bloomington (PhD)