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An Inductive Argument, Essay Example

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One of the essential characteristics of inductive inference is its inconclusive or non-demonstrative nature. This means that the conclusion of the argument never follows from the (conjunction of the) premises. Here we construct an inductive argument, for example:

  1. “All ravens that we have observed so far are black.
  2. All ravens are black”.

Here we have drawn an inductive inference from the characteristics of observed ravens to the characteristics of all ravens, most of which we have not observed. Of course, the premise of this argument could be true, yet the conclusion turn out to be false. A raven that has not yet been observed might be albino. The obviousness of this possibility does not put it forth as valid. Instead, the premise is put forth as a reason or support for the conclusion.

This shows that in general the strength or weakness of an inductive argument results not from the actual truth or falsity of the premises and conclusion, but from the probabilistic support the premises give to the conclusion.  If we have seen only ten ravens, and all of them were in our backyard, then the above argument gives at most a very weak reason to believe that all ravens are black. But, if we have traveled around the world and seen over half the ravens that exist, then the above argument gives a strong reason to believe that all ravens are black. This, then, is a feature of the inductive standard of strength: no matter how strong the above argument is, the probability remains open that further information can undercut, perhaps completely, the strength of the argument and the support that the premises give to the conclusion. Whereas true premises in the above argument guarantee the truth of the conclusion, true premises in a strong inductive argument make the conclusion likely or probable.

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