Abduction and search for explanatory hypotheses, Abduction as...

Abduction and the search for explanatory hypotheses

As a result of studying this chapter, the master student must:


specificity of abduction as a method of scientific knowledge;

• the main directions of criticism of abduction;

• development of the principles of abduction in modern science;

• Features of the use of abduction in the theory of social work;

be able to

• show the role and place of abduction in the system of methods of scientific knowledge;


• a categorical apparatus for investigating abduction as a method of cognition;

• Abduction skills in theoretical studies of social work.

Neither deductive nor inductive methods lead to the formation of an effective model of searching for new scientific hypotheses. In an attempt to find such a model, an abductive method was proposed. In the algorithms of this method, formerly well-known scientific methods are actively used, however, in the framework of abduction, research accents are placed in a fundamentally different way:

- the connection between facts and hypotheses is analyzed differently;

- Induction is not considered as a mechanism of scientific discovery, but as a way to confirm the hypothesis.

Abduction as a method of scientific cognition

Consideration of the methodological possibilities of the hypothetical-deductive method leads to the conclusion that it does not touch upon the fundamental issues the genesis of new knowledge in science. Outside of his possibilities there are answers to the questions:

- How does the emergence of new knowledge in science?

- How does science generate new ideas, hypotheses, theories?

These issues philosophy of science for a long time attributed to the competence of empirical psychology of cognition , which was limited to the study of subjective, mental processes connected with the scientific creativity of individual scientists. However, over time, there was an opposition between two essentially different contexts of science:

- the context of the justification of the scientific knowledge that philosophers dealt with;

- the context of scientific discovery, which psychologists should be engaged in.

As shown earlier, the context of discovery can not be placed in the traditional forms of logical reasoning. That is why it is methodologically significant to use in the methodology of science new methods and means of research. Of course, these techniques and tools, primarily heuristic, do not guarantee the receipt of new truths in science. However, they make the search for such truths more focused, orderly and effective.

The attempt of logical positivists to limit the tasks of the methodology of science only by testing ready-made hypotheses (through the derivation of effects and their comparison with observational data and experiments), first, only to the analysis of the context of justification of existing of scientific knowledge, and secondly, in fact it was a form of refusal to analyze the process of genesis and development scientific knowledge.

Outstanding American logician and philosopher Charles S. Pierce back in the late XIX century. stressed that the logic and philosophy of science should engage in conceptual analysis of the emergence of new ideas and hypotheses in science. Proceeding from this understanding of the tasks of the philosophy of science, he introduced the abduction as a specific way of finding explanatory hypotheses along with the traditional forms of deductive and inductive reasoning. This approach can be considered as an alternative to the hypothetico-deductive method.

Three logical methods: "deduction", "induction" and abduction - are closely related even etymologically, because they originate from the common Latin root ducere - to lead. With the de prefix, the term deduction is formed, with in - induction (guidance) and c ab - abduction strong> (cast).

Comparing the three methods, C. Pierce reveals the place of abduction among traditional forms of inference.

- "Induction," he points out, "considers theories and measures the degree of their agreement with the facts. It can never create any ideas at all.

- Deduction can not do more than that.

- All ideas of science arise through abduction. Abduction consists in studying the facts and constructing a theory explaining them. "

- Thus, he emphasizes,

- deduction proves that something must be,

- Induction shows that something really exists, and

- Abduction simply assumes that something can be (the quote is structured by me. - G. O. ) .

It is obvious that in the quotation given by C. Pierce fixes the reader's attention to the nature of the conclusions obtained by deduction, induction and abduction. However, beyond the limits of consideration is the way of obtaining such conclusions.

If we take this method into account, then abduction and induction turn out to be:

- similar in results, but

- very different by the method of their receipt.

Thus, the problem of abduction is not just to derive a probable conclusion (induction is aimed at solving this problem), but to serve as an effective tool for searching for scientific hypotheses which are necessary to explain the facts .

As for classical induction (in the sense of F. Bacon), it is viewed in traditional logic as a conclusion from the particular to the general, from individual facts to their generalization, and at best this logical method can claim to establish the simplest empirical hypotheses.

H. Pierce sought to identify a universal internal mechanism, through which it is possible to construct a hypothesis, best explaining the observed facts.

Pearce's induction characterizes as a method of checking the available hypotheses and theories. Abduction is the same as his method of search.

According to C. Pierce, the logical scheme of the abductive argument has the following form:

1. There is some surprising phenomenon P.

2. P would be explained if the hypothesis H was true.

3. Therefore, there is reason to believe that the hypothesis H is true.

At first glance, the abductive argument seems to be similar to a hypothetical deductive reasoning, since it assumes the hypothesis as the package.

However, the course of reasoning in these logical methods turns out to be the exact opposite.

The logical conclusion hypothetico-deductive reasoning:

- begins with the preset hypothesis in advance

- the hypothesis displays consequences.

In turn, the inductive reasoning-reasoning:

- begins with a thorough analysis and an accurate assessment of the established facts ;

- these facts determine hypothesis selection for their explanation.

Abductive inferences are widely used both in everyday life and in practice, and not only in science. Almost every person in his search for explanations turns to abduction, although he does not notice this. So, the doctor has to look for the cause of the symptoms of the disease, the investigator seeks the offender for the left traces of the crime. A similar problem is solved by the scientist, trying to find the most successful explanation for the process or object being studied and using the abduction method.

The comparison of methods is clearly shown in Table. 13.1. To illustrate the two methods considered, an inductive method has been added.

Table 13.1 . Directivity of thinking in hypothetical-deductive, inductive and abductive inferences

Sequence of logical actions

Hypothetical-deductive method

The abductive method

Inductive method

Logical step # 1

Analysis of a pre-defined hypothesis

Analyzing and accurately assessing facts

Analyzing and pinpointing particular facts

Logical step # 2

Conclusion of consequences from the hypothesis and their comparison with facts

Choosing a hypothesis to explain the facts

Movement of thought from the particular to the general

The nature of the reasoning




Obviously, specific studies of specific scientists largely follow the logic of abduction. Often at the very beginning of the research, scientists deal with the observed facts, only then they seek their explanation.

As GI Ruzavin shows, inductive reasoning is more like an abduction, because:

- first, it also begins with private facts and is committed in the direction from the private to the general ;

- Second, the result of inference has only plausible, or probabilistic nature.

If you characterize the differences of abduction from classical induction Bacon, then these differences are that:

- abduction is not the unerring method of discovering new truths in science, a sort of discovery algorithm;

- the purpose of abduction is to search for hypotheses that can contribute to explaining these facts.

H. Pierce formulates three methodological requirements for explanatory hypotheses:

1. They should explain not only empirically observed facts, but also facts that are not directly observable and are verified indirectly.

2. Hypotheses should contain a specific question, , which should be answered during the research.

3. A necessary requirement for any explanatory hypothesis is its verifiability, , and the latter is not limited to confirming the observed facts.

The refutation criterion in this situation is a means of elimination (exceptions) of false hypotheses.

The considered scheme of abductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that such reasoning does not guarantee the discovery of truth. Their role is narrower: abduction simplifies the search for truth. Abduction reveals such a property of the hypothesis as the ability to explain relevant facts. (In a general sense, one of the closest to the notion of relevance is the concept of "adequacy", ie relevance is an estimate not only of the degree of conformity, but also of the degree of practical applicability of the result, as well as the degree of social applicability of the solution variant.)

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