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On the mutual exclusivity of competing hypotheses

Henderson, Leah (2022) On the mutual exclusivity of competing hypotheses. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Abstract Many philosophical accounts of scientific theory comparison take as a starting point competition between mutually exclusive alternative hypotheses. However, in scientific inquiry, it often appears that hypotheses which are in competition with one another are not mutually exclusive. For example, a hypothesis which postulates one cause of a particular event may compete with a hypothesis which postulates a conjunction of causes. It appears that the conjunctive hypothesis does not exclude the single-cause hypothesis, but rather entails it, since the single-cause hypothesis may be seen as a special case of the conjunctive hypothesis. The apparent existence of logical relations between competing hypotheses then presents a problem for models of scientific inference which assume that competing theories are mutually exclusive. The problem has been raised in slightly different guises for both for Inference to the Best Explanation and Bayesianism. In this paper, I show how taking a hierarchical view of theory comparison allows us to resolve this problem. Scientific theory evaluation takes place at multiple levels, with more general theories competing against each other at higher levels and more specific hypotheses competing at lower levels. Higher-level theories can be seen as mutually exclusive alternatives, even while logical relations are respected at lower levels.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Henderson, Leahl.henderson@rug.nl0000-0002-8709-9765
Keywords: Inference to the Best Explanation, IBE, Bayesianism, mutually exclusive, hierarchical
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr Leah Henderson
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2022 03:16
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2022 03:16
Item ID: 20800
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 7 May 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20800

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