Inductive logic reasons from particular instances to general theories and is the method used to confirm scientific theories. If you observe enough apples falling from trees, you will conclude that apples always fall down, instead of up or sideways. You might then form a more general hypothesis that includes other falling bodies, like pears. Thus is the progress of science.
Watson thinks for a moment. “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarterpast three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?”
“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!
We don’t know exactly how Holmes arrived at his conclusion, but perhaps it was somethinglike this:
- I went to sleep in a tent, but now I can see the stars.
- My intuitive working hypothesis, based on analogies to similar experiences I havehad in the past, is that someone has stolen our tent.
- In testing that hypothesis, let’s rule out alternative hypotheses
- Perhaps the tent is still here, but someone is projecting a picture of stars on the roof of the tent. This is unlikely, based on my past experience of human behavior and the equipment that experience tells me would have to be present in the tent and obviously isn’t.
- Perhaps the tent blew away. This is unlikely, as my past experiences lead me to conclude that that amount of wind would have awakened me, though perhaps not Watson.
- Etc., etc., etc.
- No, I think my original hypothesis is probably correct. Someone has stolen our tent.
Induction. All these years we’ve been calling Holmes’ skill by the wrong term.