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Induction: Is it the best way to think?

October 24, 2009

Induction: Is it the best way to think?

King: “I am going to pass a law to prohibit the movement of apples”

Minister: “Why is that sire? Is there something wrong with apples?”

King: “Most certainly, apples are evil. They are part of a Communist plot.”

Minister: “I fail to see the connection Sire. Perhaps you could explain it to me.”

King: “It is obvious. Are you some kind of idiot? Apples are red. Communism is Red. So logically Apples are Communists.”

Minister: “Well I cannot argue with logic Sire, it is perfect in every way.”


Notice something wrong here? Is the King right to assume that because apples are red they are also communists? He has used a logical process to join the two but is the process flawed?


What we have is clear example of ‘Inductive Thinking’ used to prove a false hood. So what is ‘Induction’ and how should it be used correctly.


‘Induction’ is way of explaining the relationship between Cause and Effect. We need to think ‘Inductively’ in almost every logical process of the mind. Without the relationship between Cause and Effect being established all logic becomes chaos. This is often referred to as ‘Causality’ meaning everything must that happens must have a sequence of events that precede it. The relationship of the preceding events is direct and the final event we are studying cannot occur without them.


For example: We find a broken glass on the kitchen floor. It did not just appear there randomly as if created by magic. How did it get broken? Causality is the sequence that occurred for the glass to be broken on the floor. ‘Inductive Reasoning’ is how we determine what these events may have been. I say ‘May Have’ because evidence may also be missing. The most likely explanation is that the glass was either dropped or thrown on to the floor at such a velocity that it shattered. We have good reason to believe that glasses do not move by themselves so something or someone moved it. ‘Elementary my Dear Watson.’


So the events that occurred are this: Something moved the glass, the glass hit the floor, the floor was harder than the glass. The glass shattered. The implications are that when ever a glass hits the floor it will most likely shatter. Finding who or what moved the glass is a question of ‘Deduction’ which I will deal with in another post.


Another simpler example of ‘Induction’ is when you type on a computer. If you notice that hitting the keys make words appear on the screen, you could easily assume that there is a causal relationship. Inductive Reasoning will make the link this way: Pushing keys makes words to appear on the computer screen. Repeating the action proved the assumption empirically.


‘Inductive Reasoning’ is so tied up in everything that we do that we cannot ignore it.


There is a dark side of Induction and how it is often misused to force a banal in logically incorrect point.


If I was to state that All Socialists are Communists would I be correct?

Assuming that all Communists are Socialists is logical but does the sum work both ways?

Following through this reasoning to its logical conclusion shows its direct flaw.

For example:

All Communists are Socialists,

Therefore all Socialist are Communists.


What about National Socialists (Nazis)?

Using this form of Induction we must conclude:

That if all Socialists are Communists,

The Nazis are Socialists,

Therefore all Nazis are Communists.


But Nazis are not Communists and that is the flaw in this reasoning.


Not every equation can be reversed and a simple understanding of Venn Diagrams is enough to see how this is wrong.

Mathematically this logic can be proven as wrong also.

All “A’s” are subset of “C”,

All “B’s are also a subset of “C”,

But “A” and “B” do not intersect.

Saying that they do will give you an “F” on any test


The mathematics of this problem may be boring but it is the same logic we use in normal conversation.


It is common to hear throw away lines like:

“The only Good Indian is a Dead Indian.”

“Every Terrorist is Islamic, they all the same.”

“All Southerners are Red Necks, Just like…”

“All German’s are Nazis…”


Inductive thinking is good when used correctly but when used incorrectly descends into simple prejudice. The obvious questions were never asked and the assumptions are that all the available data has been considered. The obvious flaws in any ones ‘Inductive Reasoning’ will come out when properly examined against its false assumptions and sweeping generalizations.

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