Abduction in the everyday practice of science: the logic of unintended experiments

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1 Scopus citations


Generating new ideas—innovation and novelty—is central to what those of us practicing science hope to accomplish. We call it research, but what we really aim for is new-search—learning new things about the world and how it works. Charles Peirce gave the name “abduction” to what he described as the only logical operation that introduces any new idea. In this paper, I will focus on an unconventional understanding of abduction, one that goes beyond its usual meaning and concerns the situation when a surprising observation becomes reconfigured as an unintended experiment about a new research problem that previously was not being studied and possibly was unknown. For science, the consequences can be the beginning of a new field of investigation. For the researcher, the consequences can be life-changing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-227
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Charles S Peirce Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Abduction
  • Charles peirce
  • Discovery
  • Experimental design
  • Gestalt
  • Research trajectory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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