Inductive reasoning in Mathematics?

I think I have been guilty of taking for granted, along with many others, that Mathematics involves operations and calculations which don’t involve one in inductive reasoning, but rather represents a sheerly deductive enterprise. However, I was just reading about the Collatz conjecture, according to which if one takes any natural number and runs the following operation on it, then one will always end up eventually coming to the number 1; the function looks like this:

  1. for any natural number n (if n  is not ‘1’ ):
    1. if n is even, then divide by two
    2. if n is odd, then multiply it by 3 and add 1 (3n+1)

The end result will be 1. Now, this is considered a ‘problem’ by Mathematicians. However, it led me to think that, since the ‘problem’ is precisely that we do not see clearly why this conjecture should be true, we presume that it is true not for any deductive reason, but rather because we ‘induce’ the conjecture from having done the operation on various numbers various times. Thus, in the study of Mathematics, Mathematicians appeal to inductive reasoning to advance the discipline.

I think that’s interesting.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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One Response to Inductive reasoning in Mathematics?

  1. yousuf says:

    Hello Tyler

    We need to clearly differentiate ‘mathematical induction’ from ’empirical induction’. The former is classified as a form of deductive reasoning, while the latter is probabilistic.

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