Abduction 101

The theory of “abduction” or “abductive reasoning” is just a fancy word for “guessing.” From Wikipedia:

Abductive reasoning allows inferring $a$ as an explanation of $b$. Because of this inference, abduction allows the precondition $a$ to be abduced from the consequence $b$. * * * As such, abduction is formally equivalent to the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent (or Post hoc ergo propter hoc) because of multiple possible explanations for $b$. For example, in a billiard game, after glancing and seeing the eight ball moving towards us, we may abduce that the cue ball struck the eight ball. The strike of the cue ball would account for the movement of the eight ball. It serves as a hypothesis that explains our observation. Given the many possible explanations for the movement of the eight ball, our abduction does not leave us certain that the cue ball in fact struck the eight ball, but our abduction, still useful, can serve to orient us in our surroundings. * * * Properly used, abductive reasoning can be a useful source of priors in Bayesian statistics.

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