Is knowledge in the arts based on abductive reasoning? In the arts esp. visual art, do we use abductive reasoning to try to come up with the best possible interpretation of a piece of visual art?
I would say the answer is yes. Art is, well, an art and not a science. The precision of a deductive conclusion is not possible, nor is it possible to conduct the repeated experiments that support induction.
But it is possible for the observer to assemble whatever data is available and draw an inference to the best explanation. A painter might have worked several centuries ago. Deduction and induction are out of the question. But a lot of information still exists, such as: when the painter lived, the cultural customs of the day, materials available to an artist, and the work done by other contemporary painters.
Such data data allows an observer today to form some interpretation of what the painter was likely trying to say. Scientific it is not, but abduction is the best method available and its conclusion can still be meaningful.
Do you mean : Is all knowledge in the arts based on abductive inference ? Or only that some of it is ?
Abductive inference is - what ? - something like this. B needs to be explained; if A were true then B would follow with a high degree of probability; therefore there is some reason to suppose that A is true.
Three comments :
What of presumptive inference in which an answer, X, to a problem, Y, is provisionally agreed and argument continues until a refutation of X, or other compelling reasons not to accept X, is found. This is not unlike one method of argument in the Platonic Socratic dialogues, which concern the arts as much as anything else. This does not look like abductive reasoning.
What of argument by analogy - loose analogy as so often in the arts ? This again is not abductive ?
These points only apply if - what is not clear - you mean that all knowledge in the arts is based on inductive inference. If you don't, but intend only that some is, then :
- What, finally, of 'in principle' direct objections to abductive inference of the kind offered e.g. by Van Fraassen ? Fraassen uses scientific examples but if abduction is indefensible then it is indefensible in the arts too. See Stathis Psillos, 'On Van Fraassen's Critique of Abductive Reeasoning', Philosophical Quarterly, 1996, 31-47.