Inductive reasoning is a process of logical reasoning in which a person uses a collection of evidence gained through observation and sensory experience and uses them to build up a conclusion or explanation that is believed to fit with the known facts. Inductive reasoning is the primary form of logical reasoning that is involved in science, obtaining conclusions that are believed by the scientific community to be the most probable explanation of the observed phenomena.
Inductive reasoning is often contrasted with deductive reasoning, in which a logical structure provides certainty about the conclusions provided that we know that the premises are true.
The Scottish philosopher David Hume is often credited with identifying the problem of induction, by pointing out that inductive reasoning itself can only be confirmed through inductive reasoning, creating a somewhat circular argument. Hume himself did not identify this as a reason to abandon inductive logic as a means of knowledge, he was merely pointing out the limitations placed upon our knowledge claims by the methodology. It was the philosopher of science Karl Popper who really ran with the problem of induction when he formed his principle of falsifiability. In Popper's view, the problem of induction means that science itself cannot lead to claims of absolute truth, and therefore the goal of science should be to formulate claims that can be falsified through careful experimentation and observation.