Abduction


starrynightlife

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I realized today that I've never read an authoritive Objectivist use the word abduction (inference to the best explanation). The word is not in the AR Lexicon. I don't recall reading it in The Logical Leap. A quick search here suggests the only person to have uttered 'abduction' here is Baal (good posts, btw). I find this odd, considering Objectivism is hostile to pragmatism and affirms inductive efficacy.

It might be said the insights of pragmatists were psychological gems, albeit philosophicly confused. Abduction has that same appealing yet suspicious character that pragmatism has in general. The concept was introduced by the pragmatimatimatisist (to make an ugly word uglier), Charles Peirce, as Baal has pointed out. It looks like abduction hasn't found a home in philosophy yet, its status is debated normatively and conceptually. It has been argued abduction is the basis of science itself, but it is barely indistinguishable from guessing.

My questions to the forum are:

Has an Objectivist authority said anything specificly on abduction?

Does it have a place in Objectivist epistemology?

Conceptually, is induction a species of abduction (this has been argued)?

Is abduction different than the argument from ignorance?

Cheers.

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Abduction is simply the first step in the scientific method - make an educated guess and then test the hypothesis. It is not invalid per se, only when not based on or tested by observation. In that case, it is called paranoid schizophrenia.

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Fair enough, Ted. I'll try to pull a little more out of you while on the subject.

Years ago I learned of abduction in my Philosophy of Biology class, a favorite. The philosopher Elliot Sober has an intriguing twist to the creationism debate. The design argument, traditionally understood as an argument from analogy, he says is better thought as an inference to the best explanation. In other words, at one time we knew of only one origin of things that looked designed: a designer. Darwin's theory, Sober argues, became the superior explanation because it could account for the appearance of life's design, as well as the sloppy parts of that design.

I think this is a clever argument, even commendably persuasive (it reflects the humility of pragmatism: "who cares for Certainty, it seems to me..."). But it implies creationism was intellectually credible right up until Darwin - despite its inherantly nonsensicality. While the argument is based on observation (designs have designers), testability was out of the question until a theory like evolution turned up. This appeal to abduction strikes me as grossly non-Objectivist. It is to say, despite our explanation's problems, it's the best we have. Is abduction inferior to other types of reasoning? Is abduction alone justification for regarding something as true?

Another question to add to the list above is if induction is the essence of concept formation, does abduction have a similar relation?

Btw, Ted, your posts attacking gene selection in other threads were great. I wouldn't have understood their gravity without the class I mentioned above. That one of science's most popular writers still champions this (last I heard) is bothersome.

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Fair enough, Ted. I'll try to pull a little more out of you while on the subject.

Years ago I learned of abduction in my Philosophy of Biology class, a favorite. The philosopher Elliot Sober has an intriguing twist to the creationism debate. The design argument, traditionally understood as an argument from analogy, he says is better thought as an inference to the best explanation. In other words, at one time we knew of only one origin of things that looked designed: a designer. Darwin's theory, Sober argues, became the superior explanation because it could account for the appearance of life's design, as well as the sloppy parts of that design.

I think this is a clever argument, even commendably persuasive (it reflects the humility of pragmatism: "who cares for Certainty, it seems to me..."). But it implies creationism was intellectually credible right up until Darwin - despite its inherantly nonsensicality. While the argument is based on observation (designs have designers), testability was out of the question until a theory like evolution turned up. This appeal to abduction strikes me as grossly non-Objectivist. It is to say, despite our explanation's problems, it's the best we have. Is abduction inferior to other types of reasoning? Is abduction alone justification for regarding something as true?

Another question to add to the list above is if induction is the essence of concept formation, does abduction have a similar relation?

Btw, Ted, your posts attacking gene selection in other threads were great. I wouldn't have understood their gravity without the class I mentioned above. That one of science's most popular writers still champions this (last I heard) is bothersome.

Oh, crap. Once again I have spent a long time crafting a response only to have it disappear into never never land, unlike when posting on other fora or writing at wikpedia. I'll try again later. In the meantime, if you want to read something interesting, check out the first paragraph of chapter one, "Necker Cubes..." of Dawkin's book The Extended Phenotype.

http://www.amazon.co...e/dp/0192880519

Edited by Ted Keer
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Fair enough, Ted. I'll try to pull a little more out of you while on the subject.

Years ago I learned of abduction in my Philosophy of Biology class, a favorite. The philosopher Elliot Sober has an intriguing twist to the creationism debate. The design argument, traditionally understood as an argument from analogy, he says is better thought as an inference to the best explanation. In other words, at one time we knew of only one origin of things that looked designed: a designer. Darwin's theory, Sober argues, became the superior explanation because it could account for the appearance of life's design, as well as the sloppy parts of that design.

I think this is a clever argument, even commendably persuasive (it reflects the humility of pragmatism: "who cares for Certainty, it seems to me..."). But it implies creationism was intellectually credible right up until Darwin - despite its inherantly nonsensicality. While the argument is based on observation (designs have designers), testability was out of the question until a theory like evolution turned up. This appeal to abduction strikes me as grossly non-Objectivist. It is to say, despite our explanation's problems, it's the best we have. Is abduction inferior to other types of reasoning? Is abduction alone justification for regarding something as true?

Another question to add to the list above is if induction is the essence of concept formation, does abduction have a similar relation?

Btw, Ted, your posts attacking gene selection in other threads were great. I wouldn't have understood their gravity without the class I mentioned above. That one of science's most popular writers still champions this (last I heard) is bothersome.

Oh, crap. Once again I have spent a long time crafting a response only to have it disappear into never never land, unlike when posting on other fora or writing at wikpedia. I'll try again later. In the meantime, if you want to read something interesting, check out the first paragraph of chapter one, "Necker Cubes..." of Dawkin's book The Extended Phenotype.

http://www.amazon.co...e/dp/0192880519

Okay. I don't have a worked out theory of Induction per se. I accept the scientific method and Rand's theory of concept formation and find neither problematic. Things like the black swan fallacy are rather obvious skeptical sophistries. Were I to address the matter at book length I would think on it for a long time and possibly come up with various formally defined concepts.

Thinking on one foot, it's obvious that induction is the entire process of forming new concepts and conceptual generalizations, whether explicitly, as in science, or implicitly, as in the mind of a growing child. (This, by the way, is why Shayne gets it wrong when he complains that we don't need to understand how children think.) Abduction is just a step in this process, us explicitly formulating our vague notions in a way that can be tested, confirmed, strengthened, reformulated, and tested again. It's the step in which we make the chaos in our head into a testable hypothesis.

So far as that applies to creationism, there are two issues. The first is whether it is proper to observe the purposeful complexity of certain parts of the world and then to ask if one should seek for a cause of it. The answer is obviously yes. And I don't even have a problem if people at a certain level of intellectual development want to name that vague cause Providence, saying that whatever the cause may be, that is the name we will give it.

The second step in creationism is the arbitrary one. It's the step of going from a vague pre-scientific idea of Providence to the concrete claim that a certain grouchy bearded sky god did it. That's just arbitrary nonsense. It's a projection of subconscious notions of mommy and daddy onto the world, not an educated guess for which there is the slightest evidentiary starting point.

I think it is quite informative to observe the behavior of dominant male chimps during a thunder storm. They beat their chests, they howl, they grimace at the sky, they strut about, they shake the rain-filled trees violently.

The priesthood of the sky god priesthood unites man and chimp across a six-million year evolutionary divide.

Edited by Ted Keer
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I think it is quite informative to observe the behavior of dominant male chimps during a thunder storm. They beat their chests, and howl, and grimace at the sky, and strut about, and shake the rain-filled trees violently. The sky god priesthood of man and chimp is just one part of our six million-year old common evolutionary inheritance.

How wonderful In the words of their descendant who did a lot of howling and grimacing in his short day, they raged, raged against the dying of the light.

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