induction deduction Abduction?


Traditionally there are two forms of reasoning which have been found useful.

1. Induction, which looks at the particular and tries to arrive at viable generalisations from direct observations. Induction is the search of pattern in the chaos that is presented to the senses.


2. Then there is deduction, which starts from the general, from assumptions, and then uses these to build a castle of inferences. In other words it starts with the general and works itself to particular instances.


The calculation of the target of a missile would involve induction insofar as it needs experience to find the various different elements that would affect the path of a projectile. It would involve deduction in applying the resulting laws of dynamics to calculating the exact path of a particular missile in a particular set of circumstances. The induction in this case was initiated by Galileo, who founded the science of dynamics and deduction is done by the ballistic expert intending to push the button.


The natural sciences like to think of themselves as inductive, while mathematics is almost purely deductive. Technology lies in between. Charles Sanders Peirce, a philospher in America from the beginning of the century decided to add the word abduction to this pair. Abduction is the creative roaming around in hyperspace whereby we look for possibilities and hypotheses in a creative way.


Furthermore he made what I have always thought of as a wonderfully useful distinction.


“Oneness, Twoness, and threeness” You might well laugh at this stage. But actually these categories stand for an interesting way of looking at things. For Peirce Oneness stands for the thing itself. Twoness stands for the relationship between the thing itself and the world around it, i.e. its place within the web of connections. Threeness, stands for the language, or the logic, with which both are represented.


There is a cat, there is the cat as an animal, and there is the word cat.


That is a simple illustration of what he means. From it the discipline of linguistics derived the three main categories of language: semantics, which is concerned with the meaning of the words, syntactics, which is concerned with the word and its role and place within the sentence and pragmatics, which is concerned with the way texts are interpreted and used by the reader.


By dividing things in this way you learn to focus on the way object in your experience are placed. Each category has a different way of looking at the object. It is related to Ferdinand de Sausure’s interesting division between the sign and the signifier and the fact that the all words exist on the basis of the difference between them. Rember the idea that the dictionary is circular, well Jacques Derrida’s philsophy rests on the assumption that meaning in a text is not related to a fixed reality, but to other texts. This makes meaning ambiguous and unstable.