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Akademisk Fagprosa - Rum

When Architects write, draw, build? a PhD‐ Symposium, Nordic Association of Architectural Research, 2011

philosopher Charles Sanders Pierce, represents an attempt to make creativity within the sciences

into an object of philosophical and scientific theoretical analysis (Kirkeby 1994:122).

Abduction was originally introduced by Aristotle as a third way of inference, or leap of

understanding, parallel to the more widely referred concepts of deduction and induction. Pierce

loosely interpret Aristotle’s use of the term as including into science ’anything’ that seams to make

the world more rational while moreover accepting that the same facts can be explained in several

independent ways (Pierce 1984:145f). There is in other words no universal explanation of real

world phenomena. However, this is not the same as saying that science and knowledge is left with

hermeneutics and phenomenological interpretation as the only way of producing knowledge about

the world around us. In Peirce’s own more specific definition abduction is ‘the act of adopting a

hypothesis that is suggested by facts’ (Ibid). Kirkeby clarifies this definition as consisting of

examining a number of facts and allows these facts to ‘suggest a theory’ (Kirkeby 1994:127) – but a

hypothetical theory that that can then be used tentatively and needs to be tested and successively

refined. The purpose of the hypothesis lies in its contingent empirical predictions – if they are all

true, then the hypothesis is completely true (Pierce 1984:147).The hypothesis proposed through

abduction can subsequently be tested theoretically through deduction as well as empirically through

induction. But how can these different ways of inference be characterised and distinguished?

Three ways of inference

Deduction is rule based. It is the act of applying a theoretical hypothesis or rule on specific

instances in order to generate predictions (results). Through deduction the necessary or probable

specific consequences of the general hypothesis or rule is established theoretically. The reasoning

goes from the general to the specific. Pierce uses the following example:

Rule: all the beans in this bag are white

Instance: These beans are from this bag

Result: These beans are white (Ibid:154)

Induction on the other hand is experience based. It is the act of generalising from the results of a

number of specific (observed) instances into a general rule or hypothesis. Through empirical

examination of reality (the perceived result of the instances) the experience enables the formulation

of occurrences or probabilities of these occurrences (rules). The reasoning goes from the specific to

the general:

Instance: These beans are from this bag

Result: These beans are white

Rule: All beans in this bag are white (Ibid:154)

Abduction, however, is experimentally based. The difference between the former ways of inference

and the abductive inference is that the two former deal with the validation of already existing or

available knowledge (inferring from specific to general or general to specific) whereas abductive

inference deals with the generation of qualitatively new but uncertain knowledge in the form of a

hypothesis. The abductive reasoning goes back and forth from a vague preconception of reality to

observation of reality to the formulation of a preliminary hypothesis that can then be further tested

and validated through deductive and inductive reasoning or modified through new abductive

inference. Knowledge – although in the first case perhaps imprecise or even false – is generated

through successive approximation by inferring from an intuitive synthetic guess to a satisfactory

explanation:

Rule: All beans from this bag are white

Result: These beans are white

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