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    • 06/25/2010

    An abductive inference takes the form:

    P1: X;

    P2: A proposition like "If Y then X" can explain X;

    C: Therefore, probably Y.

    This is the Aristotelian form, which is typically amended slightly for use in science:

    P1: Data D;

    P2: Hypothesis H explains D;

    P3: H is the best explanation of D;

    C: Therefore, probably H.

    This holds trivially if P3 is replaced by "H is the only explanation of D" and discounting other factors to render this probable or characterising what makes H the best explanation is usually what is at issue in science. Abduction is sometimes called "inference to the best explanation" and was favoured by J.S. Mill.

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