Inference: Deductive and Inductive

Reasoning is the process of making inferences—of drawing conclusions. Students of reasoning make a variety of distinctions regarding how inferences are made and conclusions are drawn. Among the oldest and most durable of them is the distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning, which contrasts conclusions that are logically implicit in the claims from which they are drawn with those that go beyond what is given.

Deduction involves reasoning from the general to the particular:

All mammals nurse their young.

Whales are mammals.

Therefore whales nurse their young.

Induction involves reasoning from the particular to the general:

All the crows I have seen are black.

Being black must be a distinguishing feature of crows.

Implication Versus Inference

Fundamental to an understanding of deductive reasoning is a distinction between implication and inference. Implication is a logical ...

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