• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL
Help

Chapter 6. The Parts of Thinking > Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assump...

Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions

As we have said, the elements of reasoning interrelate. They are continually influencing and being influenced by one another. We now will focus at length on the crucial relationship between two of the elements: inference and assumption. Learning to distinguish inferences from assumptions is an important skill in critical thinking. Many confuse the two elements. Let us begin with a review of the basic meanings:

  1. Inference: An inference is a step of the mind, an intellectual act by which one concludes that something is true in light of something else's being true, or seeming to be true. If you come at me with a knife in your hand, I probably would infer that you mean to do me harm. Inferences can be accurate or inaccurate, logical or illogical, justified or unjustified.

  2. Assumption: An assumption is something we take for granted or presuppose. Usually it is something we previously learned and do not question. It is part of our system of beliefs. We assume our beliefs to be true and use them to interpret the world about us. If you believe that it is dangerous to walk late at night in big cities and you are staying in Chicago, you will infer that it is dangerous to go for a walk late at night. You take for granted your belief that it is dangerous to walk late at night in big cities. If your belief is a sound one, your assumption is sound. If your belief is not sound, your assumption is not sound. Beliefs, and hence assumptions, can be unjustified or justified, depending upon whether we do or do not have good reasons for them. Consider this example: “I heard a scratch at the door. I got up to let the cat in.” My inference was based on the assumption (my prior belief) that only the cat makes that noise, and that she makes it only when she wants to be let in.


PREVIEW

                                                                          

Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial


  
  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint