Scientific Reasoning Is Material Inference: Combining Confirmation, Discovery, and Explanation

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (1):31-43 (2010)
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Abstract

Whereas an inference (deductive as well as inductive) is usually viewed as being valid in virtue of its argument form, the present paper argues that scientific reasoning is material inference, i.e., justified in virtue of its content. A material inference is licensed by the empirical content embodied in the concepts contained in the premises and conclusion. Understanding scientific reasoning as material inference has the advantage of combining different aspects of scientific reasoning, such as confirmation, discovery, and explanation. This approach explains why these different aspects (including discovery) can be rational without conforming to formal schemes, and why scientific reasoning is local, i.e., justified only in certain domains and contingent on particular empirical facts. The notion of material inference also fruitfully interacts with accounts of conceptual change and psychological theories of concepts

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Ingo Brigandt
University of Alberta

Citations of this work

The material theory of induction and the epistemology of thought experiments.Michael T. Stuart - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 83 (C):17-27.
Causation in the sciences: An inferentialist account.Julian Reiss - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (4):769-777.
Can Inferentialism Contribute to Social Epistemology?Jan Derry - 2013 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 47 (2):222-235.

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