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Handout: Deductive Reasoning

MAN 5245 / MDarnell

Deductive Reasoning

You have demonstrated, simply by being admitted to this academic program, that you can reason well.
But have you ever thought about how you reason? By taking some time to reflect on basic patterns of
reasoning, and strategies we rely on to draw conclusions, you can improve your decision making in
complex scenarios.

There are two ‘types’ of reasoning: inductive and deductive. This handout addresses deductive
reasoning, which arguably is the closest type of reasoning we engage in that follows a purely rational
model of decision making. Note that what is provided is a broad overview of deduction – there are
people who spend their lives working through what exactly we can, and cannot, deduce.

Deductive reasoning is when we draw inferences apart from any empirical experiences. As such, note
that when Sherlock Holmes talks about deduction, he isn’t relying only on deductive reasoning, but a
mixture of inductive and deductive reasoning. Solving problems like ‘who committed that crime’ or ‘how
did that person perform a given action’ requires us to not only understand concepts, but to first form
concepts about the world (which is a process that relies on our experience in the world). In contrast, the
game of Sudoku requires no consideration of the ‘real world’ and is an exercise in purely deductive
reasoning.

If we are not relying on anything we experience with our senses to draw conclusions, then what
remains is our ability to recognize relationships between concepts. Because we are abstracting from the
empirical world, conclusions we are able to draw via deductive reasoning can be known with certainty,
not mere probability. Deductive reasoning is guided by principles of logic, which are also necessarily
true.

When we evaluate deductive arguments, we use two standards: validity and soundness. Validity refers
to the ability to correctly draw inferences between abstract concepts, but has nothing to do with
asserting the actual truth of any statements. We say that deductive reasoning is sound when that
reasoning is both valid and the premises of the argument are, in fact, true. To establish something is
actually (empirically) true, we need to engage in inductive reasoning, so this handout will focus on
validity.

An example of deductive reasoning that we engage in daily is mathematical reasoning – note that if we
all understand the concepts “2”, “addition”, “equality”, and “4”, then it is necessarily true that “2+2=4”;
this relationship is guaranteed by the concepts themselves (we can say that it is valid to conclude that
“2+2=4”). With deductive reasoning, you can think of concepts as having a variety of information
‘packed’ into them (e.g. how ‘2’ relates to ‘4’), and deductive reasoning is the process of ‘unpacking’
that information so that we can be more explicitly aware of what is implicitly given to us.
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

Consider the following simple (and incomplete) argument:

1. If my first plane is on time, then I will be able to make my connecting flight.


2. My first plane is on time.
3. Therefore…

If sentences 1-2 are true, then what can we conclude from them? It is pretty obvious that what follows
is I will be able to make my connecting flight. How did you know this? Simply because of the relationship
between concepts in line 1 (a conditional relationship between the concept ‘plane on time’ and ‘ability
to make connecting flight’), and confirmation of the antecedent (‘plane is on time’) in line 2. Because we
are focusing on the pattern of relationships between (any) concepts, we can use a variable to represent
each unique statement. A statement is an assertion about some (one) thing. Sentence number 1 (above)
involves the assertion of 2 things, which means that sentence contains 2 statements: (1) my first plane is
on time, (2) I will be able to make my connecting flight. We can use the letter “P” (or any letter, really)
to represent “my first plane is on time”, and the letter “Q” to represent “I will be able to make my
connecting flight”. We can then remember this pattern of reasoning given in the above argument, which
is referred to as “modus ponens”, in the following manner (read the line that is drawn as shorthand for
“therefore”):

Modus Ponens:

If p, then q
p________
q

The above is referenced as a ‘rule of inference’. Here are 6 rules of inference:

Modus Ponens: Modus ToIlens: Addition

If p, then q If p, then q p_____


p________ Not q____ P or (anything)
q Not p
(note: “or” is used in an inclusive sense, so
that if we say ‘p or q’, we are not
necessarily committing to both p and q.)
Hypothetical Syllogism Disjunctive Syllogism Conjunction

If p, then q p or q p
If q, then r_ Not p__ q____
If p then r q p and q
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

We also engage in deductive reasoning by recognizing we can represent relationships in multiple


equivalent manners. For example, “eggs and ham” is equivalent to “ham and eggs”, and “it is not true
that you will be both rich and famous” is equivalent to “you either will not be rich or you will not be
famous”. There are number of equivalents, which allow us to replace one specific formulation of a
statement with another specific formulation, and sometimes simply restating a proposition in a new way
can add clarity.

We can actually prove the “rules” and equivalences described above using another technique, referred
to as truth tables. These truth tables allow us to see all possible combinations of truths when different
concepts are put into relationship with each other. To create truth tables, first recognize that any simple
statement, which we can represent with the letter “p”, is either true or false. We can show this in the
following table:

_ p__
T (true)

F (false)

Some other simple statement, “q”, is also true or false, but when we put these two statements together,
there are 4 possible combinations: they could both be true, they could both be false, or only 1 is true
(either p, or q). Specifically, there are 2X combinations of truth assignments, where X represents the
number of different simple statements being considered in relationship to each other. The following
table shows possible truth combinations for statements p and q:

p q
True True
True False
False True
False False

We can also acknowledge under which conditions complex statements are true. If a statement is true,
then its negation (a “not” statement) is false: if it is true that “cats are mammals”, then if someone
asserts “cats are not mammals”, then that person has given a statement that is false. Conjunctions
(“and” statements) are true only when both conjuncts (“parts” – p and q) are true: it is only true that I
am sitting and typing if it is true that I am sitting and it is true that I am typing. Disjunctions (“or”
statements) are true when at least one disjunct (“part” – p or q) is true: it is true that “I am either sitting
or typing” if it is true that I am doing at least one of these things. Conditionals (“if p, then q”) are true
except when the antecedent (the “if” part - p) is true and the consequent (the “then” part – q) fails to
come true: we may believe the statement “if my plane is on time, then I will be able to make my
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

connecting flight” to be true unless we have evidence of the antecedent being true without the
consequent also coming to be true.

So how do we know that “I will be able to make my connecting flight (Q)”, if we accept that “if my first
plane is on time (P), then I will be able to make my connecting flight (Q)”, and it is true that “my first
plane is on time (P and Q), as well as each complex statement. I can create a truth table to confirm my
belief in the conclusion. First I create a table with a distinct column for each simple statement (P and Q),
and each complex statement (I also know there will be 4 rows for truth values, because there are 2
simple statements/variables):

P Q If P then Q

Next, I create rows to show all of the truth combinations for each simple statement.

P Q If P then Q
True True
True False
False True
False False

Then I work across each row to determine the truth value of the complex statements given each truth
combination of the simple statements. In this example, if the conditional (If P then Q) is true, and the
antecedent (P) is true (according to the table below, in every row in which both of those two statements
are true), “Q” (I will be able to make my connecting flight) is also true.

P Q If P then Q
True True True
True False False
False True True
False False True

You can use this technique to figure out when statements are, or are not, true, given specific
information that you are accepting as true.
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

In addition to paying attention to rules of inference or rules of replacement, or relying on truth tables,
there are other techniques to help us draw conclusions. Many of you might be familiar with the idea of
Venn Diagrams. These diagrams provide us visual assistance in determining which relationships between
concepts that we can – and cannot - claim to know. The technique is very simple – each concept is
represented by a circle. So if we were having a discussion about cars, I image that all cars would ‘exist’ in
the circle I create labeled ‘cars’:

CARS

When we assert a relationship between two (or more) concepts, a circle for each concept is drawn, and
the circles overlap each other.

MOTORCYLES RED THINGS

In addition to drawing a circle to represent each concept, there are 2 additional drawing techniques that
are relied upon. First, if you are working under the premise that ‘some’ things that exemplify a particular
concept exist, then you can put an “X” inside the circle for that concept. You can also shade in parts of
the circle for which you know that NO things exist. For example, if “Some motorcycles are red things”,
then I could diagram the statement in the following way:

MOTORCYLES RED THINGS

X
X
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

Above, you see that the concepts ‘motorcycle’ and ‘red things’ are overlapping, and there is clearly an X
in the area in which the two circles overlap (so there is some ‘thing’ that is in both the ‘world of
motorcycles’ and the ‘world of red thing’).

If I know that “Some vehicles are not cars”, I would diagram that information as follows:

VEHICLES CARS

If “No Motorcycles are Cars”, then I could diagram the statement in the following way:

MOTORCYCLES CARS

Here again I have shown a circle to represent all motorcycles, and a circle to represent all cars, and have
them overlapping to show that we are looking at the relationship between them. Then, I shaded the
area in which they overlap, to “block off” the area in which the ‘world of circles’ and ‘world of
motorcycles’ are the same world. By ‘blocking off” (shading) this area, then no ‘things’ can exist in this
part of the world.

Now consider the following: If I knew that “No motorcycles are cars” and “some vehicles are not cars”,
can I conclude that “all vehicles are motorcycles”? To figure this out, we diagram what we do know, and
look to see if the picture can confirm or deny what we want to know. First, we draw the three circles to
represent each concept. Then, we shade in the area where motorcycles and cars overlap, to ensure that
nothing can ‘exist’ in both of these ‘worlds’. The next premise is a bit more ‘tricky’ – we are told that
some vehicles are not cars, so we need an “X” in the world of vehicles that does not overlap with the
world of cars, but we are NOT told whether some vehicles are or are not motorcycles (don’t assume
anything – we are working only on the information given to us) – so I’ve strategically placed the “X” on
the line that distinguishes whether the world of vehicles is and is not distinct from the world of
motorcycles.
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

Cars

Vehicles Motorcycles

Note, this picture does NOT show that all vehicles are motorcycles (if it were to show that, the circle
representing vehicles would be shaded, or blocked off, everywhere EXCEPT where it overlapped with
motorcycles – forcing anything that ‘existed in the world of vehicles’ would also have to ‘exist in the
world of motorcycles’). Also note that from this diagram alone, we cannot conclude with certainty that
some vehicles are motorcycles (from the information we were given, that may or may not be true).

Once again, the procedures for using Venn diagrams to help us draw valid conclusions is not particularly
difficult. Also, the example I used is one in which the relationships between concepts are obvious to us
empirically, so you aren’t surprised with the conclusion we’ve drawn. So why bother working through
this process of diagramming arguments? If you use this technique, you can more quickly – and
confidently – draw conclusions in situations in which the relationships between concepts is not
immediately obvious.

Below, I am providing you some problems you can work on if you want to practice the techniques
described above. Answers to these questions are provided on the very last page of this handout.

1. Construct a Venn diagram to determine the validity of the following argument: All CEOs are in
leadership positions, but some people in leadership positions are not ethical. So, some CEOs are
not ethical.
2. Rely on rules of inference or construct a truth table to determine if the following argument is
valid: If you bribe the agent, then your company’s bid will be chosen. If your company’s bid is
chosen, then you will get a raise. So, if you bribe the agent, then you will get a raise.
3. Rely on rules of inference or construct a truth table to determine if the following argument is
valid: If you engage in bribery, then you are a risk to this company. You do not engage in bribery.
Therefore, you are not a risk to this company.
Handout: Deductive Reasoning
MAN 5245 / MDarnell

Answers/Comments:

1. All CEOs are in leadership positions, but some people in leadership positions are not ethical. So,
some CEOs are not ethical. This argument is invalid – it is not guaranteed that some CEOs are
not ethical (it is possible, but not necessarily true).

CEOs

People in Ethical People


Leadership Positions

2. This argument is valid – it follows the pattern of hypothetical syllogism.


3. This argument is invalid. The narrative explanation is that you might still be a risk to the
company for some other reason than bribery. The truth table that demonstrates this given
below; the highlighted rows show that when the premises are true, the conclusion may or may
not be true. Because validity requires that the conclusion must be true when the premises are
true, this argument is invalid.

Let B stand for “you engage in bribery”, Let R stand for “you are a risk to this company”. Recall,
the argument is: “If you engage in bribery, then you are a risk to this company. You do not
engage in bribery. Therefore, you are not a risk to this company.”

B R If B then R Not B Not R


(premise 1) (premise 2) (conclusion)
True True True False False
True False False False True
False True True True False
False False True True True