9 junio, 2024

Abductive argument: characteristics, structure and examples

He abductive argument It can be defined as a form of reasoning that seeks to obtain simple conclusions through a series of premises. Contrary to what happens in deductive reasoning, in this process plausible conclusions are drawn but cannot be verified.

For example: Premise 1; all people are mortal. Premise 2; Anthony is a person. Conclusion: Antonio is deadly. The conclusions that are drawn with this type of argument are the most probable, but they harbor certain doubts. Although this is not perceived in this first example (Antonio is mortal) it will be seen in the following ones.

The philosopher and scientist Charles Peirce (1839-1914) claimed that an abductive argument is a kind of conjecture. This means that an abductive argument, also known as «argument from the best explanation», is often used when you want to explain a phenomenon within a discussion. Generally, this type of argument is presented in discussions that have different hypotheses about one or several events.

Within these discussions, the one who argues defends one of the hypotheses because he considers it the best possible option.


When is the abductive argument used?

Due to the simple logic of abductive arguments, they are commonly used in everyday life. In fact, most people use them daily without realizing it. Some link this reasoning with common sense.

Fernando Soler Toscano, in his text Abductive reasoning in classical logic (2012), affirms that the abductive argument bears similarities with the syllogisms determined by Aristotle (384-322 BC). This is because in both cases it is based on a reasoning in which a series of affirmations are established that necessarily lead to others.

For this reason, Aristotle considered that an abductive type of reasoning is a kind of syllogism. This method was used on a recurring basis by the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, a highly accredited detective in popular culture known for his acute intuition.

in the novel Study in Scarlet (written by AC Doyle in 1887), Holmes discovers that one of the characters came from Afghanistan from the fact that the man had a martial air and his face was noticeably tanned in comparison to his wrists. This type of approach corresponds to the abductive argument.

Characteristics of the abductive argument

Increases knowledge of the arguer

The main characteristic of the abductive argument (which differentiates it from other forms of logical inference such as induction and deduction) is that it increases the knowledge of the arguer, since it allows him to know something that he did not know before.

For example, it is known that all the beans in bag N are white, therefore, it can be hypothesized that a set of white beans probably belongs to said bag; this is stated starting from the premise that the beans are white. Thanks to this premise, the arguer now knows that the group of white beans can come from bag N.

Allows forecasting and building new ideas

Likewise, abduction is also characterized because it not only allows one to hypothesize, but also to predict and build new ideas.

Due to this, Charles Pierce considered that the abductive argument was the most complex reasoning within logical inferences; only this method is dedicated to cognitive enrichment.

However, it is necessary to note that the adduction is subject to the possibility of error. That is, within the abductive argument there is a margin where there is always room for a possible mistake.


The basic structure of an abductive argument is presented below. This can have two or more premises:

First premise: N is an event or a set of events.

Second premise: G is a possible or satisfactory explanation of N.

Conclusion: G is the explanation for N, at least until something suggests otherwise.

Examples of abductive arguments

Some examples of abductive argument are the following:


First premise: The elegant men buy their clothes at Alberto’s store.

Second premise: Nestor is an elegant man.

Conclusion: So Néstor must buy his clothes at Alberto’s store.


First premise: The weather is clear and sunny.

Second premise: When the sky is clear, my wife and I go for a walk.

Conclusion: Today my wife and I will go for a walk.


First premise: A large part of the young population consumes drugs.

Second premise: The young population has free time.

Conclusion: The young population that has a lot of free time consumes drugs.


First premise: The kitchen floor woke up wet.

Second premise: The fridge has a fault.

Conclusion: The kitchen floor woke up wet from the failure of the refrigerator.


First premise: The handbags they sell at Ana’s store are expensive.

Second premise: Luisa only buys expensive handbags.

Conclusion: Luisa will buy or have ever bought at Ana’s store.


First premise: The neighbors make a lot of noise.

Second premise: Emiliano is my neighbor.

Conclusion: Emiliano makes a lot of noise.


First premise: That car is only bought by wealthy people.

Second premise: Carlos is wealthy.

Conclusion: Carlos can buy that car.

It is important to note that the premises of abductive arguments can be wrong, so they cannot be considered as universal truths. It is also recommended to carry out a critical evaluation of the argument before affirming the conclusions.

Critical evaluation of the argument

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of an abductive argument, it is necessary to answer a series of critical questions, which serve to corroborate the assertiveness of the premises and strengthen the conclusion. These questions are the following:

Are the premises acceptable? That is, in objective terms, is it possible that N has happened? Likewise, do you have all the events that make up G? How likely is explanation G? Is G really the best explanation? How much better is G compared to the other hypotheses?
Is the conclusion well founded? Specifically, has the investigation been thorough? Have you provided significant information? On the other hand, would it be preferable to continue with the investigation before affirming that G is the best answer for N?

On many occasions, after applying this evaluation, the arguer has had to reconsider the initial premises. However, the application of this evaluation is only necessary when it is desired to develop a more decisive explanation of the phenomena.

If an abductive argument is used in everyday life and ordinary events, it is unlikely that these questions will be required, because the main goal of arguments of this type is to reach a quick conclusion.

Themes of interest

Probabilistic argument.

inductive argument.

deductive argument.

analog argument.

conductive argument.

Argument from authority.


Demetriou, A. (2003) Argumentation with abduction. Retrieved on January 7, 2020 from pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Moscoso, J. (2019) abductive reasoning. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from Scielo.
Pinto, S. (2007) Two aspects of abductive reasoning. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from Dialnet: Dialnet.unirioja.es
SA (2017) Abductive arguments, essential in research. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from medium.com
SA (nd) 10 examples of abductive argument. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from examples.co
SA (nd) abductive reasoning. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from Wikipedia: es.wikipedia.org
Soler, F. (2012) Abductive reasoning in classical logic. Retrieved on January 7, 2019 from personal.us.es
Wagemans, J. (2013) The assessment of argumentation based on abduction. Retrieved on January 7, 2020 from scholar.uwindsor.ca

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