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

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Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Sami Paavola.

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Paavola, S., Hakkarainen, K. Three Abductive Solutions to the Meno Paradox – with Instinct, Inference, and Distributed Cognition. Stud Philos Educ 24, 235–253 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-005-3846-z

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Key words

  • Meno paradox
  • learning paradox
  • abduction
  • Peirce
  • guessing
  • distributed cognition