The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Demise of Deduction

Logic is based on deduction, a method of exact inference. Its main advantage is that its conclusions are exact. That is the reason why we use it to build bridges or airplane wings. But deduction is not the only type of inference we know. We are very familiar with “induction”, which infers generalizations from a set of events, and with “abduction”, which infers plausible causes of an effect. Induction has been used by any scientist who has developed a scientific theory from her experiments. Abduction is used by any doctor when she examines a patient. They are both far from being exact, so much so that many scientific theories have been proved wrong over the centuries and so much so that doctors make frequent and sometimes fatal mistakes.

Bertrand Russell used a simple example to show the limit of induction. A turkey that is fed 364 days with no exceptions will strongly believe that it will be fed again on the 365th day, except that the 365th day is Thanksgiving (a US holiday during which the usual meal is turkey).

The power of deduction is that no mistake is possible (if you follow the rules correctly). The power of induction and abduction is that they are useful: no scientific theory can be deducted, and no disease can be deducted. If we only employed deduction, we would have no scientific disciplines and no cures.

Alas,  deduction works only in very favorable circumstances: when all relevant information is available, when there are no contradictions and no ambiguities. Information must be complete, precise and consistent. In practice, this is seldom the case. The information a doctor can count on, for example, is mostly incomplete and vague. The reason we can survive in a world that is mostly made of incomplete, inexact and inconsistent information is that our brain does not employ deduction in everyday life.


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