Argumentation in Philosophical Practice: An Empirical Study

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Philosophers tend to think of themselves as model arguers and that the best kind of argument is deductive arguments, i.e., the most persuasive arguments where the premises provide the best evidence for conclusions. This raises the question: Do philosophers make the best type of arguments? If deductive arguments are indeed the best, and philosophers are model arguers, is it the case that philosophers make deductive arguments significantly more than other kinds of argument? We set out to investigate this question empirically. Using data mining and text analysis methods, we study a large corpus of philosophical texts mined from the JSTOR database (n = 435,703). Using indicator words to classify arguments by type (deductive, inductive, and abductive), we searched through our corpus to find patterns of usage. Our results suggest that deductive arguments were the most common type of argument in philosophy until the end of the twentieth century: significantly more common than abductive, but not inductive, arguments. Then, around 2008 a shift in methodology occurred, and inductive arguments took over as the most common type of argument. In addition, abductive arguments are becoming increasingly more popular in philosophy. Overall, our results suggest that deductive arguments are giving way to not only inductive arguments but also abductive arguments in philosophical practice.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes
EventOntario Society for the Study of Argumentation Conference - University of Windsor, Canada
Duration: Jun 3 2020Jun 6 2020


ConferenceOntario Society for the Study of Argumentation Conference
Abbreviated titleOSSA 12


  • indicator words
  • philosophical practice
  • metaphilosophy
  • inductive argument
  • abductive argument
  • deductive argument


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