Is there any difference between prejudice and inductive reasoning (not mathematical induction)?

If so, what is the difference?

  • They are completly different; see Induction and Inductive Logic : inductive methods are methods that predict or infer, in Hume's words, that “instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience”. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 6:54
  • We'd benefit from a little elaboration on your part. My guess is that you've got a theory that all prejudice arises from unwarranted inductive extrapolations on an inadequate data set; someone might be racist because they had an unpleasant experience once and now they use it to generalize. Of course, that's really not how it works. One can have no data at all and be raised into prejudice. There's no induction here, only an axiom learnt and accepted.
    – commando
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 19:13
  • possibly a question for english.stackexchange.com
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


There is a difference between prejudice and inductive reasoning. It is possible for a person to be prejudiced, it is not possible for a person to do inductive reasoning.

Induction is supposed to be process starts with data, derives ideas from the data and then shows those ideas are true or more probable or something like that with more data - the extra data justifies the theory.

This is impossible for several reasons. The first step makes no sense because you can't pick what information to look at without an explanation of what to look at. In addition, explanations don't follow from any finite amount of data so you can't derive them from data. And finally, the whole idea of justifying an idea is hopeless. The conclusion of an argument maybe true is the premises and rules of inference are correct, but there is no way of guaranteeing their correctness. No argument would do this job because that argument would involve premises and rules of inference that could be wrong.

Knowledge is actually created by noticing problems, guessing solutions to them and then criticising the guesses. The above criticisms of induction were proposed by Karl Popper and improved by David Deutsch: see 'The Beginning of Infinity' by Deutsch, 'The Fabric of Reality' by Deutsch, especially chapters 3 and 7 and 'Objective knowledge' by Popper chapter 1 and 'Realism and the Aim of Science' by Popper Chapter I.

A person who believes he is doing induction is wrong because induction is impossible. So what is he actually doing? He has some knowledge about the world that he is using to guess about stuff and he doesn't realise that is what he is doing. Rather, he imagines he is looking at the world in an unbiased way without making assumptions and just describing how the world works. This bears some similarity to prejudice. The prejudiced person doesn't know or doesn't care that he is making false assumptions about some group of people or some issue. Likewise the inductivist is making assumptions that may be false and he either doesn't know or doesn't care.


Prejudice is difficult to define. In the Cambridge dictionary it has lack of rationality built into the definition:

an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge

But of course, accusations of prejudice can happen when the offending opinion has a basis in reality and may not be strictly irrational. This is still not like induction, because there a single counterexample refutes the inductively justified thesis. It could be compared to statistical reasoning.

To really know somebody takes time. This makes people resort to shortcuts: they know something about the group the person belongs to and they apply this knowledge to the person to form their judgment in a short time. This judgement will be correct with a certain probability but can of course fail, because only in special cases groups are so homogeneous that it would work all the time. A similar method is applied by insurance companies, if they are not prohibited by law.

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