Reasoning is the process of developing conclusion through the examination of evidence. This post will explain several forms of reasoning as listed below.
Inductive reasoning involves looking at several specific instances or facts and developing a conclusion. Below is an example
- Fact 1: Dad died from smoking
- Fact 2: Grandpa died from smoking
- Fact 3: Uncle is dying from smoking
- Conclusion: Smoking kills
In the example above, there are several instances of the affect of smoking on people. From these examples, the conclusion reach was smoking is deadly.
The danger of this form of reasoning is jumping to conclusions based on a small sample size. Just because three people died or are dying of smoking does not mean that smoking is deadly in general. This is not enough evidence to support this conclusion
Deductive reasoning involves the development of a general principle testing a specific example against the principle and moving to a conclusion. Below is an example.
- Principle: Everybody is mortal
- Specific example: Thomas is a man
- Conclusion: Therefore, Thomas is mortal
This method of reasoning is highly effective in persuasion. However, the principle must be sound in order to impact the audience.
Causal reasoning attempts to establish a relationship between a cause and effect. An example would be as follows.
You slip and break your leg. After breaking your leg you notice that there was a banana on the ground. You therefore reason that you slipped on the banana and broke your leg
The danger of causal reasoning is it is sometimes difficult to prove cause and effect conclusively. In addition, complex events cannot often be explained by a single cause.
Analogical reasoning involves the comparison of two similar cases making the argument that what is true for the first is true for the second. Below is an example.
- Fact 1: Thomas is good at playing the trumpet
- Fact 2: Thomas is good at playing the French Horn
- Conclusion: Thomas is probably good at playing the trombone
The example above assumes that Thomas can play the trombone because he can play other brass instruments well. It is critical that the comparison made is truly parallel in order to persuade an audience.
Abductive reasoning involves looking at incomplete information and trying to make sense of this through reasonable guesses. Perhaps the most common experiences people have with abductive reasoning is going to the hospital or mechanic. In both situations, the doctor and mechanic listen to the symptoms and try to make a diagnosis as to exactly what the problem is.
Of course, the doctor and mechanic can be completely wrong which leads to other problems. However, unlike the other forms of reasoning, abductive reasoning is useful for filling in gaps in information that is unavailable.
Reasoning comes in many forms. The examples provided here provide people with different ways these forms of reasoning can be used.