Induction, or inductive reasoning, proceeds from particular observations to a generalized conclusion. If we notice that one houseplant grows better in direct sunlight, we might use induction to conclude: Houseplants grow better in direct sunlight. If we then place a second houseplant in direct sunlight and it also grows better, we would be more certain of our conclusion. The more instances we observe of a houseplants thriving in direct sunlight, the more likely our conclusion is to be correct. However, inductive reasoning only leads us to a conclusion that is probably, not certainly, true. We would only have to place a fern in direct sunlight to see it wither and find out that not all houseplants grow better in direct sunlight.

This flaw of induction was most notably pointed out by Scottish philosopher David Hume, who concluded that that from no finite number of observations could a unrestrictedly general conclusion be drawn. This principle was highlighted when the schoolroom adage “All swans are white” was proved false by the discovery of black swans in Australia in the 18th century.

Deduction, or deductive reasoning, starts with a general principle and makes a specific conclusion based on the circumstances. As long as the general principle and circumstantial particulars are correct, deduction leads to a conclusion that is always correct. Here is a simple example of deductive reasoning: Given that a laptop commuter needs either a charged battery or an external power source to operate, and given a particular computer that is neither plugged in or containing a charged battery, we can conclude that the laptop computer will not operate.

We use a combination of inductive and deductive reasoning in our everyday lives. If we get into a 20 mpg, 10-gallon car and discover that if has only 1/4 of a tank, and we have to drive 60 miles, we can conclude, through the use of mathematics, that we will not be able to make it to our destination. (10 gallons x 1/4 x 20 miles/gallon = 50 miles.) That is deductive reasoning. We know that we will not make it 60 miles by the laws of physics. If we fill up the tank and then decide not to take the freeway because the freeway has been crowded the last three mornings, we are using inductive reasoning. We are making a conclusion based on past experiences. The freeway will probably be crowded again in the morning, but it possibly may not.

Intuition is yet another form or reasoning. It is based on a feeling or a hunch. Often, however, intuition is based on inductive reasoning that we are either not conscious of or that is too complex to explain. Intuition is often wrong, and as there is no way to examine the intuitive process, we are at a loss for ways to improve it.


7 responses to “Reasoning

  1. I disagree with the following statement “Intuition is often wrong”. It May be true when it comes to material matters, but when it comes to feelings, I think we should use intuition when we have to decide who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with.

    • Stacie Foote

      Hi Yolanda,

      To me intuiton is the Holy Spirit speaking to you to guide you in making the correct choice or decision.

      Often times I find that I was warned about something before it happens. However, the main key is for me to pay attention to what is being brought to the light.

      Therefore, I also disagree with the above statement that often times intution is wrong. A person with little or no faith would not understand or even listen to the their intution or Holy Spirit because in order to listen you need to pay attention.

      • Noah Shepherd

        Well Stacie, I disagree with your statement that intuition is the Holy Spirit. While certainly the Holy Spirit leads us as believers to make decisions at certain times, we also have our own desires as well which may be telling us to make a certain choice. On top of this, it is crucial to remember that as Christians, we also have an enemy – Satan. This enemy is going to try vehemently to get us off the right path, to confuse us, frustrate us, and ultimately deceive us. Satan is described as the father of lies in Scripture, and he does not simply deceive those who are not saved – he also tries to deceive Christians into sinning against God or making unwise decisions that can negatively affect one’s effectual spreading of the Gospel.

        1 John 4:1-3 tells us, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

        So as Christians, we need to be careful and test little notions in our heads to see whether they come from the Holy Spirit, or whether they come from our own selves, or possibly Satan. Does this feeling or inclination I have towards something have God’s glory in mind? Or is it something that is contrary to Scripture and God’s standards?

    • Michelle Pedrigal

      By “[…] we should use intuition,” I guess you personally mean, umm, in a corny way, “follow what your heart says”? Then, I wonder if there are any married couples who used their intuition and have a happy marriage. But perhaps using intuition to decide on that also means that the couple has a “connection.” I honestly don’t have a clue on what they mean by that though–“connection.” I think when using intuition, people usually mean “that gut feeling” most of the time.

  2. Lily

    Intuition to me is just a gut feeling. Based on knowledge and experience, intuition gives me reasoning for my decisions and actions.I feel as though intuition lies in our hearts and most situations should also consider you minds wishes and wants as well. Making a judgment only on intuition might not be the most accurate way.

  3. Noah Shepherd

    I think in the future we will have a greater understanding of how intuition works, and what triggers it to function. Our sciences and understandings of the human mind are constantly improving as new discoveries take place. So I think its safe to say that in a few hundred years, our knowledge of intuition may be heightened.

    It is imaginable that intuition is a combination of the inner psyche’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions combined with the inductive reasoning, and is so tied up between those components, or even more components, that we really cannot understand or explain it fully at this point in time just as you said. The human mind is so vast and uncharted its amazing, isn’t it?

  4. I’m not quite sure how intuition was translated into religious beliefs early into the discussion, but I can say that I don’t necessarily know what intuition is. I do though, believe that what ever it is, it’s either subconscious or even conscious induction. No matter what one thinks is compelling them to do something, it’s most likely related to how the same types of circumstances transpired in past experiences. As a chocolate lover, if I choose not to buy the cereal box with “Count Chocula” on the front, it’s hardly an intuitive decision–it’s simply because as a child, vampire movies terrified my. It is because I am not consciously thinking “vampires scare me, therefore I won’t buy that” as I grab the box next to it, we are led to attribute that hastily made decision to simple “intuition”.

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