Inductive generalization or analogical argument

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LETS PRACTICE: Identify the sample, the target, and the property. Then say whether the argument is an inductive generalization or an analogical argument. HINTS or a “re-cap” are included below the 4 items.

  1. Mickey and Minnie both have legs, so Pluto does, too.




Argument type:

  1. Since the US sides with Israel over Jerusalem as its capitol, you can bet it will side with Israel if Israel rejects a two-state solution.




Argument type:

  1. The US has made it clear that it will always side with Israel, since it even supports their claim that Jerusalem is its capitol.




Argument type:

  1. Well have a good time at that club. After all, weve had a good time the last three times we went there!




Argument type:


HINTS and Partial RE-CAP:

Sample always in P

Property usually explicitly in both P & C, but always implied

Target always in C

INDUCTIVE GENERALIZATIONS (also called Enumerative Induction or Inductive Enumeration) part-to-whole

*The sample is a subset of the target class

It is going to be hot on Monday. So, it is going to be hot all week.

Here, the sample is Monday, the target is all week, and the property is being hot. It is an inductive generalization because Monday is a part of the week.


*The sample is not a subset of the target item (the sample and target are terms of the comparison, or analogues)

It is going to be hot on Monday. So, it is going to be hot on Tuesday.

Here, the sample is Monday, the target is Tuesday, and the property being hot. It is an analogical argument because the sample is not included in the target; that is, Monday is not a part of Tuesday.

KEY: Rather than thinking of inductive reasoning as moving from the smaller to the greater (which is not always the case), it is better to think of it as moving from what is known, to what is unknown. It is because of this feature of inductive reasoning, that we think of it as (potentially) generating knowledge. Just remember the problem of induction, and that a gap always exists!


Information that may be helpful:

Sample and Target

The evidence in all inductive arguments is contained in the premises, and the evidence itself is called oursample. Whatever we are saying is true of our sample, is called thefeature (or property) in question. It is usually found in both the premise(s) and the conclusion. In the conclusion we talk about somethingnew, orexpand our knowledge (hopefully, if it is in fact a ). This “new thing” in the conclusion is called thetarget:


P: I’ve met sixteen hippies, and they were all cool people.

C: All hippies are cool people.

Here, “sixteen hippies” is the sample, “all hippies” is the target, and “cool people” is the feature. Enumerative arguments move from part to whole.


P1: Most students have part-time jobs.

P2: Deshaun is a student.

C: Deshaun has a part-time job.

Here, “most students” is the sample, “Deshaun” is the target, and “having a part-time job” is the feature. Inductive syllogisms move from whole to part.

Analogical Arguments

Analogical arguments areinductive arguments. They are extremely common and we use them frequently in daily life. Analogical arguments all contain claims which assert that because two things are alike in certain respects, they are alike in an additional respect.

Unlike , in analogical inductive argumentsthe sample is not a subset of the target item (the sample and target are terms of the comparison, or analogues). Consider this analogical inductive argument:

It is going to be hot on Monday. Monday is a day of the week, but so is Tuesday. So, it is going to be hot on Tuesday.

Here, the sample is Monday, the target is Tuesday, and the property is being hot. The “analogs” are Monday and Tuesday, respectively. It is an analogical argument because the sample is not included in the target; that is, Monday is not a part of Tuesday. If you compare this to the hippie argument above, you can see there that the sixteen hippies mentioned in the sampleis included in “all hippies” (the target). Analogical reasoning moves from part to part.

Here are three more analogical arguments:

  • “The experiment was successful on lab rats, so it will be successful on human beings.”
  • “Killing babies is immoral, and babies and fetuses are both potential adult human beings, so killing fetuses is immoral.”
  • “Lions must eat meat, and lions and human beings are both mammals, so human beings must eat meat.”

Summary Reflection on Inductive Reasoning

Rather than thinking of inductive reasoning as moving from the smaller to the greater (which is not always the case, as we have now seen), it is better to think of them as moving from what is known, to what is unknown. It is because of this feature of inductive reasoning that we think of it as (potentially) generating knowledge. It doesn’t always, and there are limitations to this kind of knowledge, but it works well in much of our everyday decision-making.

Notice above that the terms of the analogies must be stressed by the inductive reasoner, since all of the arguments omit differences that necessarily exist between the sample and the target. Differences must exist, since if one thing is being compared to another, they cannot be thesame thing. Be wary of the differences. It is often unwise to uncritically accept the conclusions of analogical arguments.

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