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deductive reasoning

Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco

Deductive reasoning is a logical process in which a conclusion is based on the concordance of multiple premises that are generally assumed to be true. 

Deductive reasoning is sometimes referred to as top-down logic. Its counterpart, inductive reasoning, is sometimes referred to as bottom-up logic. Where deductive reasoning proceeds from general premises to a specific conclusion, inductive reasoning proceeds from specific premises to a general conclusion. 

The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who is considered the father of deductive reasoning, wrote the following classic example:

  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is a man.
  • Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

In Aristotle’s example, sometimes referred to as a syllogism, the premises of the argument -- that all men are mortal and that Socrates is a man -- are self-evidently true. Because the premises establish that Socrates is an individual in a group whose members are all mortal, the inescapable conclusion is that Socrates must likewise be mortal.

 

This was last updated in May 2013

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