Generalizing from the Instances

ABSTRACT: If an event of one kind does not always lead to an event of a second given kind, it does not follow (of course) that the occurrence of an event of the first kind can never explain the occurrence of an event of the second kind. I’m concerned here with cases of belief. In the service of defending a plausible “boundary-shifting” solution to the sorites paradox, I argue that a certain paradoxical belief(in the universally-generalized premise of the sorites paradox) can be explained by our having reasonable beliefs that entail it (beliefs in the instances of that generalization). Some have argued against boundary-shifting solutions on the grounds that beliefs in instances do not always lead to beliefs in generalizations over those instances. I argue that the objection flounders. An event of one kind can explain an event of another kind even if events of the first kind do not always lead to events of the second kind. One does not impugn an explanation merely by pointing to its defeasibility.
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