Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 24, Issue 3–4, pp 235–253 | Cite as

Three Abductive Solutions to the Meno Paradox – with Instinct, Inference, and Distributed Cognition

  • Sami Paavola
  • Kai Hakkarainen


This article analyzes three approaches to resolving the classical Meno paradox, or its variant, the learning paradox, emphasizing Charles S. Peirce’s notion of abduction. Abduction provides a way of dissecting those processes where something new, or conceptually more complex than before, is discovered or learned. In its basic form, abduction is a “weak” form of inference, i.e., it gives only tentative suggestions for further investigation. But it is not too weak if various sources of clues and restrictions on the abductive search are taken into account. We present three, complementary versions of abduction: (1) as a sort of guessing instinct or expert-like intuition, where unconscious clues are important; (2) as a form of inference, where a strategic point of view is essential; and (3) as a part of distributed cognition and mediated activity, where the interaction with the material, social, and cultural environment is emphasized. Our starting point is Peirce’s own notion of abduction, but we broaden the perspective, especially to the direction of distributed cognition.

Key words

Meno paradox learning paradox abduction Peirce guessing distributed cognition 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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