Common Inductive Arguments
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?
Inference to the Best Explanation
Margin of Error
Affirming the Predicate Class
Denying the Subject Class
Arguments from Analogy
Fundamental Attribution Error
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.