The Heuristic Conception of Inference to the Best Explanation

Philosophical Studies:1-22 (forthcoming)
Abstract
An influential suggestion about the relationship between Bayesianism and Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) holds that IBE functions as a heuristic to approximate Bayesian reasoning. While this view promises to unify Bayesianism and IBE in a very attractive manner, important elements of the view have not yet been spelled out in detail. I present and argue for a heuristic conception of IBE on which IBE serves primarily to locate the most probable available explanatory hypothesis to serve as a working hypothesis in an agent's further investigations. Along the way, I criticize what I consider to be an overly ambitious conception of the heuristic role of IBE, according to which IBE serves as a guide to absolute probability values. My own conception, by contrast, requires only that IBE can function as a guide to the comparative probability values of available hypotheses. This is shown to be a much more realistic role for IBE given the nature and limitations of the explanatory considerations with which IBE operates.
Keywords inference to the best explanation  Bayesianism  inferential heuristics  absolute vs. comparative probabilities  working hypotheses
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-017-0933-2
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