Give me a reason: Inductive vs. deductive reasoning

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Reason is an integral part of man’s understanding. Gut feelings, instincts and assumptions cannot be categorized as reason. They must supported by factual evidence to become valid. In a logical argument, there are two ways two present reasons:

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning involves gathering specific information to make a general conclusion that can be considered probable but not exactly accurate. You can say that, for example, John is a doctor and all doctors are smart, therefore John is smart. You can see the logic of the argument but you can’t be 100 percent sure that John is smart. This is the case for most inductive inferences.

Induction is a future-oriented method of reasoning. From the collected specific facts, we come to a conclusion of what may be true in the future. To prove an induction false, all you have to do is find the exception to the conclusion presented in the argument.

Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning is the opposite of inductive reasoning. In this method, a general conclusion is made first before gathering the evidence to either prove or disprove it. A valid deductive argument is when the conclusion follows the premise. For example, the deduction is that all doctors are smart. The premise is that John is a doctor and so the conclusion is that John is smart. Although the conclusion is not necessarily accurate, the argument can still be considered valid because there are no facts contradicting it.

Deductions are past or present oriented. The premises presented in the argument determine its validity. If one of the premises is proven false, then the deduction is invalid.

The two methods are different but can be very useful in obtaining relevant conclusions and developing theories. They are a means to achieve knowledge and understand philosophy better.

Lou Habash is a professor of philosophy at King’s College, New York. Follow him on Twitter for more insights on philosophy and life.

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