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Inductive versus deductive reasoning: how to make stronger arguments

by
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Ness Labs
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Both inductive and deductive reasoning are important modes of reasoning that should be used in combination and chosen based on the context of a situation or problem.

The Nature of Reasoning

  • Often considered a distinctly human ability, it involves using our intellect to form logical and valid arguments that help the mind move from one idea to a related idea.

Inductive Reasoning

  • Use your personal experiences and observations to come up with a general truth.
  • Conclusions are considered probable.
  • Example: Sherlock Holmes looks for trends or patterns and extrapolates on this information to formulate a general truth.
    • He is also an exception because it is common for inductive reasoning to reach an incorrect conclusion, but Holmes almost always solves the case.
  • Limitations: Mistaking correlation for causation or applying the particular to the general.

Deductive Reasoning

  • Apply logical rules to your premises until only the truthful conclusion remains.
  • Conclusions are considered certain.
  • Wrong conclusions often occur because the premises or logic applied to move from one step to another is flawed.
  • Limitations: Impractical to use on a daily basis because you must start from a factual premise to which you rarely have access.
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