DEDUCTIVE INDUCTIVE

All ravens are black. All observed ravens are black.

If there is a raven on top If there is a raven on top of of Pikes Peak, it is black. Pikes Peak, it is black.

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Of course, it is true for the deductive argument (and not true for the induc- tive argument) that if the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true. This may seem to give an advantage to the deductive argument over the in- ductive argument. But before we can decide how much support a deductive argument gives its conclusion, we must ask if its premises are, after all, true. That is not something we can just take for granted. If we examine the prem- ises of these two arguments, we see that it is easier to establish the truth of the premise of the inductive argument than it is to establish the truth of the premise of the deductive argument. If we have observed carefully and kept good records, then we might be fully confident that all observed ravens have been black. On the other hand, how can we show that all ravens (observed and unobserved—past, present, and future) are black? The most obvious way (though there may be other ways) would be to observe ravens to see if they are black or not. This, of course, involves producing an inductive argument (called a statistical generalization) for the premise of the deductive argument. Here our confidence in the truth of the premise of the deductive argument should be no greater than our confidence in the strength of the inference in the statistical generalization. In this case—and it is not unusual—the deduc- tive argument provides no stronger grounds in support of its conclusion than does its inductive counterpart, because any reservations we might have about the strength of the inductive inference will be paralleled by doubts con- cerning the truth of the premise of the deductive argument.

We will also avoid the common mistake of saying that deductive argu- ments always move from the general to the particular, whereas inductive arguments always move from the particular to the general. In fact, both sorts of arguments can move in either direction. There are inductive arguments intended to establish particular matters of fact, and there are deductive arguments that involve generalizations from particulars. For example, when scientists assemble empirical evidence to determine whether the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by the impact of a meteor, their discussions are models of inductive reasoning. Yet they are not trying to establish a general- ization or a scientific law. Instead, they are trying to determine whether a particular event occurred some 65 million years ago. Inductive reasoning concerning particular matters of fact occurs constantly in everyday life as well, for example, when we check to see whether our television reception is being messed up by someone using a hair dryer. Deductive arguments from the particular to the general also exist, though they tend to be trivial, and hence boring.

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