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Abductive reasoning and explanation

Authored by: Barbara Koslowski

The Routledge International Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138849303
eBook ISBN: 9781315725697
Adobe ISBN:


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It is no coincidence that the notion of abduction, introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce (1931–1958), is associated with two terms: guessing (or hypothesizing) and pragmatism. The notion of guessing (or hypothesizing) contains more than a grain of truth to it. The catch is that the guessing is constrained by background information, including theoretical information or explanation. The notion of pragmatism is relevant in that abduction describes how reasoning in general actually takes place – pragmatically, rather than in an idealized or formal framework. Briefly, abduction is a strategy for drawing inferences about an event according to which one explanation for an event is preferred to another because it provides the more plausible causal account of the data that is also more causally coherent with what we take, at the time, to be well-founded background information or beliefs.

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