Common Inductive Arguments

Unit #5 Summary

In this unit we looked at four of the most common types of inductive arguments: Arguments from Analogy, Inference to the Best Explanation, Inductive Generalization, and Inductive Application.  We use each one of these types of argument multiple times every day.  In each case, we learned how to identify these arguments by type, learned what makes them logically strong, and isolated key questions to ask in evaluating for logical strength.

Key Questions for Specific Inductive Argument Types

Two Questions to Ask of Arguments from Analogy:

  • Is the noted similarity relevant to the inferred similarity?
  • Are there differences that are relevant?

Three Questions to Ask of Inferences to the Best Explanation:

  • How likely is the proposed explanation?
  • Are there other plausible explanations?
  • Would the truth of the proposed explanation be less surprising than the truth of any competitor?

Two Questions to Ask of Inductive Generalizations:

  • Is the sample large enough?
  • Is the sample diverse enough?

Two Questions to Ask of Inductive Applications:

  • Is the individual in question a member of the subject class or not a member of the predicate class?
  • Is the individual in question a member of other relevant classes?

Key Terms

Inference to the Best Explanation

Poor Explanation

Hasty Explanation


Subject Class

Predicate Class

Universal Generalization

Statistical Generalization

Inductive Generalization



Margin of Error

Sample Size

Sample Diversity

Hasty Generalization

Biased Generalization

Random Sample

Availability Heuristic

Inductive Application

Affirming the Predicate Class

Denying the Subject Class

Hasty Application


Arguments from Analogy


Relevant Similarity

Relevant Differences

Fundamental Attribution Error

Further Reading

For a deeper engagement with many of the issues raised in this chapter see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entries on “Analogy and Analogical Reasoning,” “Inductive Logic,” and “Abduction.”  See also Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic by Brian Skyrms.  For more about inference to the best explanation see Peter Lipton’s aptly titled book Inference to the Best Explanation.



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Arguments in Context by Thaddeus Robinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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