Critical Thinking: Why is “inductive” reasoning not as reliable as deductive?

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Inductive < Reasoning < Five Thought Tools < TST Framework < Critical Thinking

It’s a matter of reliability!

Inductive reasoning is considered less reliable because it relies on patterns, not absolute certainties. While you can absolutely trust good deductions, you can only trust inductive ones while the pattern holds up.

Let’s dive in…

You can trust deductions, but you can also question whether they are “good” or not. Good deductions stand up to rigorous examination. The focus of this type of skepticism is on evaluating the validity of each premise. Deductive reasoning follows a strict logical path, if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. With the rise of science in the last century, this also means each premise must be falsifiable. You must be able to test it!

Can you believe conclusions based on inductive reasoning? Absolutely, but with a caveat. The premises still must be falsifiable, and you can only believe the conclusions so long as the pattern holds up. In 30 Philosophers, I describe this as the middle empiricist viewpoint. You believe good deductions and embrace inductive conclusions so long as observations support them. From this middle view, the book also explores the true skeptic which believes but constantly reevaluates deductive premises and tends not to believe other types of reasoning. The other view it explores is the True Believer which explores the unknown.

With inductive reasoning, you’re making an educated guess based on past observations, but you can’t be 100% sure the pattern will continue. Think of it like predicting the weather: just because it’s sunny today and yesterday, doesn’t mean it will be sunny tomorrow. So, while inductive reasoning is useful for making informed decisions, it’s important to recognize its limitations and not confuse probability with certainty. For a deeper exploration, take the 5-minute deep dive: Types of Reasoning: Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive.

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