, Volume 164, Issue 2, pp 201–234 | Cite as

Patterns of abduction

  • G. SchurzEmail author


This article describes abductions as special patterns of inference to the best explanation whose structure determines a particularly promising abductive conjecture (conclusion) and thus serves as an abductive search strategy (Sect. 1). A classification of different patterns of abduction is provided which intends to be as complete as possible (Sect. 2). An important distinction is that between selective abductions, which choose an optimal candidate from given multitude of possible explanations (Sects. 3–4), and creative abductions, which introduce new theoretical models or concepts (Sects. 5–7). While selective abduction has dominated the literature, creative abductions are rarely discussed, although they are essential in science. The article introduces several kinds of creative abductions, such as theoretical model abduction, common cause abduction and statistical factor analysis, and illustrates them by various real case examples. It is suggested to demarcate scientifically fruitful abductions from purely speculative abductions by the criterion of causal unification (Sect. 7.1).


Abduction Inference to the best explanation Common-cause-unification Disposition Theoretical concepts Scientific discovery Analogy Factor analysis Realism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of DuesseldorfDuesseldorfGermany

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