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Towards a Theory of Abduction Based on Conditionals

Pfister, Rolf (2022) Towards a Theory of Abduction Based on Conditionals. Synthese, 200 (206). ISSN 0039-7857

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Abduction is considered the most powerful, but also the most controversially discussed type of inference. Based on an analysis of Peirce’s retroduction, Lipton’s Inference to the Best Explanation and other theories, a new theory of abduction is proposed. It considers abduction not as intrinsically explanatory but as intrinsically conditional: for a given fact, abduction allows one to infer a fact that implies it. There are three types of abduction: Selective abduction selects an already known conditional whose consequent is the given fact and infers that its antecedent is true. Conditional-creative abduction creates a new conditional in which the given fact is the consequent and a defined fact is the antecedent that implies the given fact. Propositional-conditional-creative abduction assumes that the given fact is implied by a hitherto undefined fact and thus creates a new conditional with a new proposition as antecedent. The execution of abductive inferences is specified by theory-specific patterns. Each pattern consists of a set of rules for both generating and justifying abductive conclusions and covers the complete inference process. Consequently, abductive inferences can be formalised iff the whole pattern can be formalised. The empirical consistency of the proposed theory is demonstrated by a case study of Semmelweis' research on puerperal fever.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Pfister, Rolfrolf.pfister@posteo.de0000-0002-0573-8544
Additional Information: The original article has been corrected upon the request of the author. Several formatting issues have been corrected that were inserted during proofreading by Springer Nature.
Keywords: Abduction, Inference, Discovery, Conditional, Inferentialism, Inference to the best explanation
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Mr. Rolf Pfister
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2022 02:00
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2022 02:00
Item ID: 21171
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer Nature
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 26 August 2022
Volume: 200
Number: 206
ISSN: 0039-7857

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