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The Oxford Companion to Philosophy

Prof. C. J. Hookway


Abductive reasoning accepts a conclusion on the grounds that it explains the available evidence. The term was introduced by Charles Peirce to describe an inference pattern sometimes called ‘hypothesis’ or ‘inference to the best explanation’. He used the example of arriving at a Turkish seaport and observing a man on horseback surrounded by horsemen holding a canopy over his head. He inferred that this was the governor of the province since he could think of no other figure who would be so greatly honoured. In his later work, Peirce used the word more widely: the logic of abduction examines all of the norms which guide us in formulating new hypotheses and deciding which of them to take seriously. It addresses a wide range of issues concerning the ‘logic of discovery’ and the economics of research.

Prof. C. J. Hookway

See also induction.


C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, vii (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), 89-164.Find this resource: