If the premises and conclusion are logical or if they’re not, it will vary depending on the situation. The conclusion reach is probable, but it’s not possible to say whether or not it’s certain. Usually, examples of inductive reasoning are simple. They don’t require a great deal of thought to put together and can, in some cases, lead to over-generalization. But, it should be noted that this is not always the case. Sometimes inductive arguments are rational and correct.
Definition of Induction
The word “induction” comes from the Latin meaning “to lead in.” Inductive reasoning depends on premises to reach a conclusion that’s probably rather than certain. It uses facts and examples from the real world to lead to a general opinion that most people will likely agree with or see as being true but which may be a fallacy or overgeneralization. A simpler way to understand this kind of reasoning is that it’s based on specific facts and draws a general conclusion (which may not be logical derived from the facts.) There are strong and weak inductive statements, and although it’s not possible to measure how “strong” or “weak” an argument is, readers can make their best guess based on the available facts.
Types of Inductive Statements
- Strong: has a higher probability of being true, but could still be false. The latter should always be taken into consideration.
- Weak: a weak statement has a conclusion that’s unlikely to be true. Sometimes, one might even suggest that weak inductive statements have improbable conclusions.
Examples of Induction in Literature
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As stated below, courtroom scenes are some of the most common locations in which readers can find examples of induction. No novel has a more famous courtroom scene than To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Atticus Finch acts as a defense attorney for Tom Robinson. The latter is innocent of a terrible, racially discriminatory crime he’s been accused of. Here are a few lines from this part of the novel. The prosecution is attempting to use an inductive argument:
“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.”
The prosecutors try to use inductive reasoning, suggesting that all Black men and women are liars and therefore so too is Tom Robinson, in order to convince the jury to convict him. On the other hand, Finch uses a better argument to prove that Robinson is right-handed and couldn’t have committed the crime (since the beating was carried out by a left-handed person).
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Speech to Congress (1941)
The following lines come from a dramatic speech President Roosevelt delivered to congress the day after Pearl Harbor. It is a great example of an inductive argument, as noted by Jeanne Fahnestock in Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion. Roosevelt uses six statements, leading up to a conclusion that is based around the attack and what he and the United States government believed was going on.
Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.
The first six lines lead to the sixth, a conclusion that suggests Japan has “undertaken a surprise offensive.” The six examples, as Fahnestock states, lead to the conclusion and a strong case for war.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
In this well-loved first novel in the Harry Potter series, there is a good example of inductive reasoning. In one scene, Harry tries to use inductive reasoning to suggest that his professor, Snape, is trying to break into a room in Hogwarts that no one should be going into. Rowling writes the following lines with Harry speaking:
“You know what this means?” He finished breathlessly. “He tried to get past that three-headed dog at Halloween! That’s where he was going when we saw him—he’s after whatever it’s guarding! And I’d bet my broomstick he let that troll in, to make a diversion!
While Harry’s story seems to make sense, it is actually leading him to a false conclusion. His dislike for Professor Snape has tinted his ability to clearly see what’s going on.
Why Do Writers Use Induction?
Writers can use induction in literature in a variety of ways. It’s often present in scenes that include some type of reasoning or confusion. For example, a courtroom, police station, or in the midst of a dramatic scene in which characters are attempting to find a way out of a tricky situation. Depending on the use of inductive reasoning, the characters may find themselves led astray.
In a courtroom, a lawyer might use the technique in order to try to convince the jury of something. One of the most common literary devices found along with inductive reasoning is the red herring. It is a symbol, event, image, or another part of a story that leads characters in the wrong direction. It seems important at the time but eventually turns out to be meaningless.
Related Literary Terms
- Ad Hominem: uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit someone’s opinion or argument.
- Bandwagon: a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective.
- Bias: undue favor or support to a particular person, group, race, or one argument over another.
- Literary Argument: a piece of literature is a statement towards the beginning of a work that declares what it’s going to be about.
- Logos: use of logic to create a persuasive argument in writing.
- Read: Different Types of Arguments
- Read: 10 Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate
- Watch: Understanding Arguments