JCCC Honors Journal


Charles Sanders Peirce remains a largely forgotten American original thinker, whose interests and accomplishments span various disciplines in philosophy, mathematics, and science. He considered himself, first and foremost, a logician and claimed to have discovered a new logical method of analysis. In addition to the forms of deduction and induction that date back to Aristotle, Peirce’s new method became known as abduction. Never satisfied, he kept changing his terminology and his intentions about what this new method was supposed to do. He tried to demonstrate how abduction worked at least a couple of times, but his explanations were never fully worked out and had problems. Today, abduction is used as a synonym for what philosopher Gilbert Harman called “inference to the best explanation.” My paper draws from both primary and secondary sources to give a high-level overview of abduction for a general reader who has taken an introductory logic class.