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Putting Explanation Back Into "Inference to the Best Explanation"

Lange, Marc (2020) Putting Explanation Back Into "Inference to the Best Explanation". [Preprint]

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Abstract

Many philosophers argue that explanatoriness plays no special role in confirmation – that “inference to the best explanation” (IBE) incorrectly demands giving hypotheses extra credit for their potential explanatory qualities beyond the credit they already deserve for their predictive successes. This paper argues against one common strategy for responding to this thought – that is, for trying to fit IBE within a Bayesian framework. That strategy argues that a hypothesis’ explanatory quality (its “loveliness”) contributes either to its prior probability or to its likelihood. This paper argues that this strategy fails because it must give different treatments to two hypotheses that are unlovely for the very same reason. The strategy therefore loses the insight into scientific reasoning that its reconstruction in terms of IBE is supposed to provide. The paper then provides a Bayesian account of the confirmatory role of explanatoriness that represents explanatory quality as having an impact in the same place for two hypotheses that are unlovely for the very same reason. This approach works by “putting explanation back into IBE” – that is, by invoking hypotheses that refer explicitly to scientific explanation and by invoking the agent’s background opinions regarding the kind of explanation that the evidence is liable to have. On this approach, there is no list of “explanatory virtues” the possession of which always helps to make an explanation better. Rather, for different facts, there are different characteristics that our background knowledge of other explanations gives us some reason to expect the given fact’s explanation to possess.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Lange, Marcmlange@email.unc.edu
Keywords: inference to the best explanation, theoretical virtues, induction, laws of nature, explanation, Bayesian confirmation theory
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Depositing User: Prof. Marc Lange
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2022 22:47
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2022 22:47
Item ID: 20218
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12349
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12349
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Date: 18 July 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20218

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