Deduction and induction

As my blog name suggests, I am by nature a Daydreamer. That is not to say I spend hours doing nothing except thinking. People that know me would say that I cant sit and relax, I always have a project on the go. But when I do have to sit, whilst driving for example, my mind is usually exploring all manner of random things. I have recently learnt that in philosophical terms there are two specific types of thought process. Deductive reasoning and Inductive reasoning. These two are very different and as I have pondered them, I believe some personalities are more prone to one, than the other.

Jessie the cockapoo deductive reasoning
Jessie our Cockapoo

Deductive reasoning

A logical progression from general ideas to specific conclusions, based on two or more true statements. For example:

1) All dogs are mammals.

2) All mammals have lungs.

By deductive reasoning we can conclude that all dogs have lungs.

Max the cockapoo inductive reasoning
Max our brown male Cockapoo

Inductive reasoning

A general conclusion, principle, or explanation derived by reasoning from particular instances or observations. For example:

Every male dog that I have seen is brown.

By deductive reasoning we can conclude that ALL male dogs are brown.

Deductive vs Inductive reasoning

From the two dog examples above, most people can see that deductive reasoning gives a far more reliable outcome than inductive reasoning.

By nature and occupation I am a fixer of all manner of things, as the old saying goes “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” I believe that by nature I am also a deductive thinker. In many ways it is why I can fix things. I have an analytical mind, that can understand how thinks work and why they sometimes don’t.

When I go to a job where something is broken, I often meet an inductive thinker who will say “I don’t understand? It worked yesterday” and no matter how I try and explain that a series of events can lead to component failure, they struggle to get passed “it worked yesterday.”

Now to be fair I get a lot of work from Inductive reasoners… If you are predominantly an inductive reasoner, I need you in my life.

bertrand russel chicken
Parsley and Rosemary, chickens we once owned

Bertrand Russel and the chicken

To explain inducive reasoning simply, philosopher Bertrand Russel used the example of a chicken.

The chicken was living her best life. She thought the farmer was her Best Friend Forever. Every evening the farmer said hello and feed her dinner and juicy treats.

Then one evening the chicken WAS dinner !

The chicken applied inductive reasoning. “I was the farmers BFF yesterday!!” But she didn’t count on a higher power that could totally control her fate, the farmer. As a family we have kept chickens, they can be friendly or timid but always a little lacking in brain power.

We need to use both types of reasoning

If you generally work on the premiss that it has always been thus, perhaps a little deeper research or study would broaden your horizons. There a lots of different coloured male dogs out there to meet !! Maybe like the chicken, not depending on what has always been, may save you a lot of trouble!

Maybe if you only work on deductive reasoning, you are missing some life enhancing experiences. As a Christian I cant explain my believe and faith in cold hard facts derived from deduction. My faith is based on a mixture of deductions and inductive experiences. What I have seen come to pass as a result of actions and what has always been my experience.

“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.”

Henry Ford

This quote from the great industrialist, Henry Ford, is a call to change your actions if you want to change the outcome. Is this a deductive thinker being critical of an inductive thinker, or an inductive thinker, assuming tomorrows outcome will be the same if nothing changes? Either way it does not take into account the outside influences of another, the farmer for example.

The chicken didn’t take into account the will of a higher being and it didn’t work out well. Sometimes in matters of faith we have to keep doing what we have always done, if we believe they are right, because we believe a higher power will reward us in the end. And yes for a deductive thinker these inductive thoughts come harder.

What are you ?

Leave a message in the comments… Are you an inductive or deductive thinker, or a mixture of both. Perhaps you have never thought about it. I wonder if being predominantly one or the other makes it harder to understand the logic of those who are not the same?


Update …

After reading the above post, my son introduced me to a third form of reasoning which in some ways is a mix of those above. Abductive reasoning is based on as many facts as you can gather and then an element of forming the best conclusion possible. A court jury may well be considered as a group of abductive reasoners. They take all the facts at hand and then make the best decision they can. Hence the requirement to find the accused guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”

If you have trouble differentiating deduction, induction, and abduction, thinking about their roots might help. All three words are based on Latin ducere, meaning “to lead.” The prefix de- means “from,” and deduction derives from generally accepted statements or facts. The prefix in- means “to” or “toward,” and induction leads you to a generalization. The prefix ab- means “away,” and you take away the best explanation in abduction.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary

It may well be that those of us who “fix things” are actually abductive reasoners.. because often it is a best guess!

5 comments

  1. I wonder if we’re all naturally inductive -you know, as a first reaction. I certainly felt that way with your example (“but it worked yesterday!!”). In actually solving a problem, however; I, like you, am more analytical.

    I think religious experiences are outside of the deductive/inductive reasonings and (as you touched on) are apart because of that. We have an inner soul that connects to God’s Spirit. When we are able to attune this to His will, then we receive inspiration and affirmation.

    Like

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