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Northwestern University

FD-EDR: Empirical and Deductive Reasoning

NOTE: Students who started taking classes at Northwestern in Spring 2023 or earlier should refer to the Area II: Formal Studies page. The information below pertains to students who start at Northwestern after Spring 2023.

We learn about the world in two main ways: empirically, from observations, and by making logical deductions from what we already know or conjecture. Courses in this discipline teach students to use these two modes of inference.

Empirical conclusions, derived from observations about the world, come with uncertainties or probabilities. Courses in empirical reasoning teach students to apply statistical reasoning to interpret evidence, to estimate the uncertainties inherent in their conclusions, and to build theoretical models based on data.

We also reason by deduction from axioms we take as certain, or from conjectural models of the real world. Courses in this discipline teach students both the power and limitations of such formal reasoning. Students will learn to create and analyze chains of mathematical or logical deductions, or computational algorithms.

learning objectives

Courses in Empirical and Deductive Reasoning are designed to achieve a combination of the following learning outcomes:

Choosing courses

Review the list of approved courses in empirical and deductive reasoning. All students entering Weinberg College have some background in empirical and deductive reasoning. The approved course list enables even those with advanced background to develop further skills. Consult the Undergraduate Catalog on course prerequisites. If you have questions about where to start, talk to your assigned adviser or to faculty advisors in departments offering courses in this foundational area.

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