Truth-Seeking by Abduction

Cham, Switzerland: Springer (2018)
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This book examines the philosophical conception of abductive reasoning as developed by Charles S. Peirce, the founder of American pragmatism. It explores the historical and systematic connections of Peirce's original ideas and debates about their interpretations. Abduction is understood in a broad sense which covers the discovery and pursuit of hypotheses and inference to the best explanation. The analysis presents fresh insights into this notion of reasoning, which derives from effects to causes or from surprising observations to explanatory theories. The author outlines some logical and AI approaches to abduction as well as studies various kinds of inverse problems in astronomy, physics, medicine, biology, and human sciences to provide examples of retroductions and abductions. The discussion covers also everyday examples with the implication of this notion in detective stories, one of Peirce’s own favorite themes. The author uses Bayesian probabilities to argue that explanatory abduction is a method of confirmation. He uses his own account of truth approximation to reformulate abduction as inference which leads to the truthlikeness of its conclusion. This allows a powerful abductive defense of scientific realism. This up-to-date survey and defense of the Peircean view of abduction may very well help researchers, students, and philosophers better understand the logic of truth-seeking.



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Peirce on Abduction

As a philosophical term in English, ‘abduction’ was originally a seventeenth century translation of a Latin term used by Renaissance logicians. It was adopted in 1898 by Charles S. Peirce who gave it a significant role in his system. Peirce was the founder of American pragmatism, well-known and appr... see more

Abduction and Logic

Since the 1970s Peirce’s notion of abduction has become an inspiration for many scholars in formal logic and Artificial Intelligence. This chapter outlines some examples of logical approaches to abductive reasoning. Abduction can be formulated as a rule of inference, which leads to “adaptive logics”... see more

Abduction as Discovery and Pursuit

The Scientific Revolution, which replaced ancient doctrines in the early modern age, convinced researchers that science is a systematic way of seeking new knowledge. For this reason, the method of scientific inquiry has to leave room for the heuristic generation of novel ideas. Many philosophers hav... see more

Abduction and Confirmation

In this chapter we go beyond Peirce by studying the role of abduction in the weak justification or confirmation of hypotheses. Section 6.1 deals with qualitative confirmation, or its special cases of inductive and abductive confirmation as identified by Howard Smokler. Section 6.2 treats quantitativ... see more

Abduction and Scientific Realism

Scientific realism claims that theories in natural science are attempts to describe a mind-independent reality. Such theories explain and predict observable phenomena, but their content refers to entities and processes beyond the observable domain. While naive realists assert that successful theorie... see more

Inference to the Best Explanation

While Chap. 10.1007/978-3-319-99157-3_6 discussed the role of abduction in the confirmation of hypotheses by their success in explanation and prediction, in this chapter we turn to the notion acceptance which is a stronger form of justification than confirmation. Section 7.1 gives a survey of induct... see more

Analysis and Synthesis

In spite of his unusually broad knowledge of the history of science, Peirce did not pay attention to the most significant key idea in the history of heuristic reasoning and problem-solving, viz. the method of analysis and synthesis in Greek geometry. As described by Pappus , analysis is inverse infe... see more

Inverse Problems

In this chapter we give illustrations of abductive reasoning that Peirce called “retroduction”. His own paradigm example, the inference to the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte from present documents and monuments, can be generalized to a method of evaluating historical hypotheses by means of the caus... see more

Abduction and Truthlikeness

Earlier chapters deal with abductive inferences to explanations which are deductive or inductive-probabilistic. This more or less standard account has so far ignored the fact that explanatory and predictive success in science is often approximate. Therefore, the analysis of abduction should cover al... see more

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Ilkka Niiniluoto
University of Helsinki

References found in this work

Logical foundations of probability.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Chicago]: Chicago University of Chicago Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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