Inductive Validity: Definition & Examples

Instructor: James Greaver

Jim has a master's degree in secondary Education and has taught English from middle school level to college.

This lesson will discuss what inductive validity is and provide examples of such. Then you will be asked to complete a short quiz to test your comprehension of the material.

Definition

Inductive validity means that when one reasons inductively, such reasoning will contain three elements: 1) a premise (the first guiding point), 2) supporting evidence (what makes you believe the premise is true), and 3) a conclusion that is true and viable (valid) AS FAR AS YOU KNOW. The validity of the reasoning is based upon the strength of your supporting evidence, which makes your premise more likely to be true, and hence, your conclusion to be more than likely true.

Inductive reasoning is often used in science and philosophy, since it provides evidence for a belief, even though that belief may someday be found to be false (just ask any scientist!). In other words, inductive reasoning is a 'best guess' that is based on the best available evidence. A basic example might look like this:

All printed books have a binding. I believe this because every book I have read has had a binding. Therefore, any new book that is made will probably have a binding.

This is inductively valid because its premise, that printed books all have bindings, is true and viable, as far as the thinker knows based upon her prior experience with books (the supporting evidence). The conclusion, that new printed books will likely have bindings, is also very likely true and viable, but this is not guaranteed. In order to truly grasp this, we must note the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning differ in a couple very important ways. Let's look at the chart below to see if we can make it easier to comprehend:

Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning

Note: When I am trying to remember the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning, I just think of the words deductive and general. This helps me to remember that the two words that both have an 'e' as the second letter go together: deductive reasoning must begin with general information!

So, when considering inductive reasoning, remember that it begins with specific observations/beliefs, which result in a conclusion that may or may not be true. Let's look at some examples.

Example of Inductive Validity in Literature

When we read literature, we often come across information that makes us think, 'What if that was true?'. For example, say you are reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and you begin considering the main premise of the story, that books should not be allowed in society. You might reason through this by considering the good and the bad aspects of literature, such as its entertainment and informative value vs. its potential for causing uprisings or rebellion in society.

You might surmise that, since literature rarely has caused such negative actions (premise 1), it is useful for teaching and informing (premise 2) and is valuable as entertainment (premise 3), that it should not be destroyed (conclusion). The supporting evidence in this case might be examples of how books are valuable for teaching, informing, and entertaining, in addition to the lack of examples of them having caused trouble!

A question remains, though: is that conclusion a certainty? Can you be absolutely certain that literature will not cause people to revolt or become otherwise troublesome? The answer is no. This is inductive reasoning because you have considered specific information and come to a general conclusion, even though the conclusion may one day prove to be wrong. The validity of the reasoning is in the fact that you have indeed used reasonable premises and consideration to come to the conclusion, regardless of whether it is correct.

Example in Writing

Suppose you are considering writing a short story based on the aforementioned book, Fahrenheit 451. You have decided that you wish to write the story from the point of view of a book. You describe the reasons why you feel you and all of your friends, millions of other books, should not be burned, but you should be allowed to exist and even be read.

In considering what to use as support for your argument against destruction, you might choose to offer examples of how books have been used for good (premise), such as informing (support 1), teaching (support 2), guiding (support 3), and simply entertaining humans (support 4). Then, based on these values, you would assert that you and all other books are mostly good, and, therefore, you should be preserved (conclusion). This, again, is inductive reasoning because you have begun with specific information, the valuable aspects of books, and drawn a general conclusion, that books should not be burned. The validity is in the fact that your positive points showing the worth of books, of which you have many examples, are true and viable, as far as you know. Your evidence should, therefore, support the idea that books should be saved, even if some of them may one day prove to be harmful to society!

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