Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 330)


The general purpose of this chapter is to give an overview of the field of abduction in order to provide the conceptual framework of our overall study of abductive reasoning and its relation to explanatory reasoning in subsequent chapters. It is naturally divided into seven parts. After this brief introduction, in the second part (section 2) we motivate our study via several examples that show that this type of reasoning pervades common sense reasoning as well as scientific inquiry. Moreover, abduction may be studied from several perspectives; as a product or as a process, the latter in turn leading to either the process of hypotheses construction or of hypotheses selection and finally, abduction makes sense in connection with its sibling induction, but there are several confusions arising from this relation. In the third part (section 3), we turn to the founding father of abduction, the American pragmatist Charles S. Peirce and present very briefly his theory of abduction. In the fourth part (section 4), we review abduction in the philosophy of science, as it is related with the central topic of scientific explanation, existing both in the received view as well as in neglected ones in this field. In the fifth part (section 5), we present abduction in the field of artificial intelligence and show that it holds a place as a logical inference, as a computational process as well as in theories of belief revision. In the sixth part (section 6), we give an overview of two other fields in which abduction is found, namely in linguistics and in mathematics (neither of which is further pursued in this book). Finally, in the seventh part of this chapter (section 7), we tie up our previous overview by proposing a general taxonomy for abduction, one that allows two different abductive triggers (novelty and anomaly), which in turn lead to different abductive procedures; and one that allows for several outcomes: facts, rules, or even whole new theories. On our view, abduction is not a newnotion of inference. It is rather a topic-dependent practice of scientific reasoning, which can be supported by various types of logical inferences or computational processes.


Logic Programming Belief Revision Logical Inference Background Theory Abductive Reasoning 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Autonomous University of MexicoMexico

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