Lecture Notes.

Module Ten: Session Seven
Inductive Arguments (Introduction)  
Note: A more in depth discussion of induction comes later on.

Induction Defined:

Any argument which is intended to give some support, but not definitive support for the conclusion.

An important characteristic of inductive arguments is that it is always possible to have an argument where the premises are true, but the conclusion is false. One hopes that the conclusion is true, but it might not be.

Probability is always a factor with inductive arguments. The certainty of the conclusion being true is always less than 100%.

All the presidents of the United States have been men. Therefore, it is likely that the next president will be a man.

The premise in this argument is true. However, it is easy to see that it is possible that a woman will be the next president. So, even though the premise is true, it is possible for the conclusion to be false.

75% of potential voters polled say they are voting for Donaldson. Therefore, it is likely that Donaldson will win.

The premise deals with statistics, in this case a sample of voters. It is always possible that something went wrong with the poll, so it is not certain that Donaldson will win.

When the premises are used as a base from which the conclusion makes a projection, then the argument is inductive.

Remember, all inductive arguments are (deductively) invalid. (see validity)

Five types of inductive arguments

(Each of these will be discussed in more detail later.)

  • Generalizations: extending observations of some to an entire class.
  • Analogy: showing that something easily understood is similar to something more complex in relevant ways.
  • Statistical: inferring that the qualities of the data adequately represent the qualities of the population.
  • Higher induction: intellectual reasoning that shows certain things are likely to be true.
  • Hypothesis: systematic process by which a theory is inductively confirmed or falsified.
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