Abductive Argument

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An Abductive Argument is a logic argument based on how well the conclusion matches the prior background knowledge (relative to other possible conclusions).



  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning
    • Abduction is a form of logical inference that goes from data description of something to a hypothesis that accounts for the data. The term was first introduced by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) as "guessing".[1] Peirce said that to abduce a hypothetical explanation [math]a[/math] from an observed surprising circumstance [math]b[/math] is to surmise that [math]a[/math] may be true because then [math]b[/math] would be a matter of course.[2] Thus, to abduce [math]a[/math] from [math]b[/math] involves determining that [math]a[/math] is sufficient (or nearly sufficient), but not necessary, for [math]b[/math].

      For example, the lawn is wet. But if it rained last night, then it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, the possibility that it rained last night is reasonable. (But note that Peirce did not remain convinced that a single logical form covers all abduction.)[3]

      Peirce argues that good abductive reasoning from P to Q involves not simply a determination that, e.g., Q is sufficient for P, but also that Q is among the most economical explanations for P. Simplification and economy are what call for the 'leap' of abduction.[4]

  1. Peirce, C. S.
    • "On the Logic of drawing History from Ancient Documents especially from Testimonies" (1901), Collected Papers v. 7, paragraph 219.
    • "PAP" ["Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmatism"], MS 293 c. 1906, New Elements of Mathematics v. 4, pp. 319-320.
    • A Letter to F. A. Woods (1913), Collected Papers v. 8, paragraphs 385-388.
    (See under "Abduction" and "Retroduction" at Commens Dictionary of Peirce's Terms.
  2. Peirce, C. S. (1903), Harvard lectures on pragmatism, Collected Papers v. 5, paragraphs 188–189.
  3. A Letter to J. H. Kehler (1911), New Elements of Mathemaatics v. 3, pp. 203–4, see under "Retroduction" at Commens Dictionary of Peirce's Terms.
  4. Peirce, C.S. (1902), application to the Carnegie Institution, see MS L75.329-330, from Draft D of Memoir 27: Template:Quote


  • http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/analog.htm
    • QUOTE: Abduction. The operation of guessing or forming an initial hypothesis is what Peirce called abduction. Given an assertion q and an axiom of the form p implies q, the guess that p is a likely cause or explanation for q is an act of abduction. The operation of guessing p uses the least constrained version of analogy, in which some parts of the matching graphs may be more generalized while other parts are more specialized.


  • (Magnani, 2001) ⇒ L. Magnani. (2001). “Abduction, Reason, and Science: Processes of Discovery and Explanation". Kluwer Academic Plenum Publishers, New York, 2001. xvii þ 205 pages. Hard cover, ISBN 0-306-46514-0.


  • (Bunt & Black, 2000) ⇒ H. Bunt, and W. Black. (2000). “Abduction, Belief and Context in Dialogue: Studies in Computational Pragmatics" (Natural Language Processing, 1.) John Benjamins, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 2000. vi þ 471 pages. Hard cover, ISBN 90-272-4983-0 (Europe),

1-58619-794-2 (U.S.)