In this paper we investigate how inference to the best explanation works in engineering science, focussing on the context of malfunction explanation. While IBE has gotten a lot of attention in the philosophy of science literature, few, if any, philosophical work has focussed on IBE in engineering science practice. We first show that IBE in engineering science has a similar structure as IBE in other scientific domains in the sense that in both settings IBE hinges on the weighing of explanatory virtues. We then proceed to show that, due to the intimate connection between explanation and redesign in engineering science, there is a further engineering domain-specific virtue in terms of which engineering malfunction explanations are evaluated, viz. the virtue of redesign utility. This virtue entails that the explanatory information offered by a malfunction explanation should be instrumental in predicting counterfactual dependencies in redesigned systems. We illustrate and elaborate these points in terms of a number of engineering examples, focussing in particular on the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447. Our extension of analyses of IBE and explanation to engineering science practice offers new insights by identifying a new explanatory virtue in malfunction explanation: redesign utility.
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-020-00325-6
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Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.

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