What is an abductive argument? (With examples)

A Abductive argument Refers to two concepts that relate to each other, but are still different. Both refer to explanatory arguments.

The first sense refers to the part of an argument in which the hypothesis is generated, while the second sense refers to that part of the argument in which the hypothesis is justified.

ARGUMENTO abductivo

The first sense that was mentioned was popular previously, but, at the moment, has fallen into disuse, reason why prevails the second sense. This second sense is generally called"inference about the best explanation".

Some philosophers point out that the abductive argument is one of the most frequently used types of inference, both in daily life and in the framework of scientific reasoning.

There is no specific model for arguments, which generates arguments among thinkers. However, the most common is that two premises are presented and one conclusion is the best explanation for these two premises.

It should be noted that the abductive arguments do not offer a really logical reasoning, but offer the best explanation given the premises.

Abduction argument explained with examples

Here are some examples to illustrate more clearly the abductive arguments.

Example # 1

Suppose you have two friends, David and Matt, who recently had a fight that ended their friendship.

Shortly afterwards, someone tells you that you saw David and Matt together at the movies. The best explanation for what they just told you is that David and Matt made peace and are friends again.

Example # 2

One day you wake up and go to the kitchen. At the table, you find a plate with crumbs of bread, a jar of jelly, a knife with which the jelly was anointed and a glass with leftovers of milk.

You conclude that some member of your family woke up very early for breakfast and did not have time to pick up the table.

You might think that a thief came into your house and that, before leaving, he decided to eat something; However, this possibility is so farfetched that the best possible answer is the previous one.

Example # 3

A baby is crying and you notice an unpleasant smell. You conclude that the baby needs to change the diaper. However, it could be that the smell comes from somewhere else.

Example # 4

You walk down the street and you notice that the sidewalks are wet. You conclude that it was raining. There could be other explanations, like someone threw a bucket of water to clean them a little; However, rain is the best possible explanation.

Example # 5

Some people have vision problems, which causes them to trip continuously in low light. Your brother stumbles continuously. Your brother may have vision problems.

Example # 6

In your life, you have seen many elephants in different parts of the world, but you have never seen a brown elephant. You conclude that there are no brown elephants.

Example # 7

One of the best examples of abductive arguments is offered by Sherlock Holmes. It is generally believed that Sherlock Holmes uses the deduction to draw his right conclusions; However, rarely does Holmes deduce.

In most cases, he abduces, that is, he infers the best possible explanation for the premises he obtains from his observation.

"You seemed surprised when I told you in our first interview that you had come from Afghanistan.

"Someone would have told him, no doubt."

-No way! I discovered that you had come from Afghanistan. Obviously, in Afghanistan."The whole train of thought did not take a second. And then I made the remark that you had come from Afghanistan, which left you amazed. By the force of a long habit, the course of my thoughts is so rigid in my brain that I came to that conclusion without even being aware of the intermediate stages. However, I went through those stages. The course of my reasoning was as follows:"Here is a gentleman who responds to the type of Medicine man, but who has a martial air. He is, therefore, a military doctor with all evidence. He has just arrived from tropical countries, because his face is a strong dark color, which is not the natural color of his complexion, because his wrists are white. He has gone through suffering and illness, as his gaunt face proclaims. He has had a wound in his left arm. It maintains it rigid and in a forced way... In what tropical country has a modicum of the English Army gone through hard sufferings and to be wounded in an arm?

Sherlock Holmes talking to Dr. John Watson.

Extract from"Study in Scarlet"by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In all the examples presented, the conclusions do not logically derive from the premises.

In example 1, about David and Matt, if we accept that both premises are true, it could be that these two examinations were casually seen in the cinema. In addition, we do not have statistics on fights or friendship.

The conclusion that they are friends again is not logical, in fact, but it is the Better explanation Possible for the fact that they have been seen together. The same applies to all other cases.

Abductive arguments in everyday life

Many of the examples discussed above are familiar since we use abductive reasoning daily. In fact, philosophers and psychologists agree that this is the most common type of reasoning.

Sometimes the arguments are so weak, as in the example of elephants, that the use of abductive reasoning is noted, although most people would say that it is nonsense and not reasoning).

However, in most cases, this type of argument goes unnoticed, as every time we trust the testimony of another person.


1. Deduction vs. Induction Vs. Abduction. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from merriam-webster.com.

2. Intro to Logic: Abductive Reasoning. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from commonsenseatheism.com.

3. Abduction. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from informationphilosopher.com

4. Abductive, presumptive and plausible arguments. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from dougwalton.ca.

5. Abductive reasoning. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from cogsci.uwaterloo.ca.

6. Abductive Arguments. Retrieved on June 20, 2017, from hss.caltech.edu.

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