On abductive reasoning

Mariusz Urbański (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

Abduction is a kind of reasoning that amounts to the search for an acceptable explanatory hypothesis for surprising or anomalous phenomena. Since C.S. Peirce coined the term, research on abduction are mainly focused on computational generation and evaluation of acceptable hypotheses. Such a computational focus, however, substantially oversimplifies the picture: it postpones causal and goal-directed motivation for abduction as an explanatory reasoning as well as its knowledge-dependency.

The present work offers an overview of the original Peircean account of abduction (both in its syllogistical and inferential form) as well as a short discussion of some modifications proposed to the above scheme, esp. by those who interpret abduction as a kind of inference to the best explanation. We indicate typical criteria to which evaluation of abductive hypotheses is usually referred to and list some examples of explanatory and creative cognitive processes for which the term "abduction" is used in the literature.

On this basis we emphasize two points related to an inevitably contextual character of abduction: important links between reasoning by analogy and abduction and close affinities of the latter with Decision Support Systems.


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