Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2020


In his essays and fiction for children, Kingsley champions inductive reason, the process of making generalizations from specific observations, and criticizes deductive reason, the process of arriving at definite conclusions on the basis of general theories. For Kingsley, in deriving a general axiom from a concrete observation—the unknown out of the known—the process of inductive reasoning requires a leap of faith that cannot be reduced to logical formulations. Like the Romantics, Kingsley believed that the wonder and imagination of childhood were essential for fostering what he called ‘reverent induction’—the ability to see in each process of inductive reasoning the unfolding of God’s plan for human perception. Kingsley’s praise of inductive reason in contrast to deductive reason, and the influence of Romantic philosophical ideas on his work, provides an entirely new interpretive framework for understanding the role of the narrator in The Water-Babies and his conversation with the child reader. Through his dialogue with the child listening to the story, the narrator seeks to challenge empirical epistemology and deductive logic, two ways of thinking that Kingsley sees as a threat to reverent induction. One way he does this is to model the process of analogical reasoning for the child reader in order to challenge the assumptions of empirical philosophy and the other is to use irony and wit to satirize what he sees as the nonsensical structure of deductive reason. While the conversation with the young reader operates in the realm of logic and reason, the narrator’s fairy tale symbolically represents the Romantic imagination and the transcendent leap of faith that makes reverent induction possible.


This work was originally published in Open Education Journal, available at



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