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Residue Reasoning

 

Disciplines Argument > Types of reasoning > Residue Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Prove something by showing that all other possibilities are not possible.

This can be done with drama, striking off the alternatives from a figurative list. Then emphasize that the remaining option must be true.

In more detail, you can start with the problem, highlighting the issue. Then do analysis that shows the causes of the problem and so lead to options and disproving all except your chosen alternative. A way of doing this is through Pros-vs-Cons Reasoning.

Example

She is not outside. She is not upstairs. She is not on the ground floor either. There can only be one conclusion: There is a cellar in this house and she is there.

Discussion

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's famous detective Sherlock Holmes said 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' This classically summarizes the principle of residue reasoning.

This approach assumes of course that the speaker's list of options is a complete set of options. If an opponent shows further possibilities, then the argument (and perhaps the arguer) is destroyed.

If residue reasoning does not reach a final conclusion, then at least it may reduce the number of options, such that you can then compare the remaining possibilities using another form or reasoning.

See also

Deductive Reasoning, Pros-vs-Cons Reasoning

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