Beware of Syllogism

Isaac Levi

in Pragmatism and Inquiry

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698134
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742323 | DOI:
Beware of Syllogism

Show Summary Details


In 1865 and 1866, Peirce appealed to Aristotle’s proposal that an inductive inference be understood as a transformation of a categorical syllogism by permuting the major premise and the conclusion supported by a conversion of the minor premise to develop his own formal account of induction. He completed his theory by taking hypothetic inference to be the product of permuting the minor premise and the conclusion of the categorical syllogism. Peirce sought to extend the proposal beyond transformations of categorical syllogisms to cover reasoning where the major premise of the categorical syllogism is no longer a categorical proposition but is statistical. This chapter traces the adjustments Peirce made in his theory by the time he published “A Theory of Probable Inference” in 1883. “A Theory of Probable Inference” is rightly understood to contain an anticipation of the suggestion to replace inductive inference by inductive behavior found in the method of significance testing and confidence interval estimation proposed by Neyman and Pearson a half-century later. In 1883, Peirce continued, however, to classify hypothetic inference as a permutation of the premises of statistical syllogisms. In 1902, Peirce acknowledged that the account of hypothetic inference he had been proposing was confused. During this period, he replaced the term “hypothetic inference” by “abduction” and explicitly took the position that abduction has as its conclusion the introduction of a conjecture for testing rather than an inference to the best explanation.

Keywords: categorical syllogism; statistical syllogism; major premise; minor premise; conclusion; hypothetic inference; inference to the best explanation; abductive inference; inductive inference; inductive behavior

Chapter.  12096 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.