Why it doesn’t matter whether the virtues are truth-conducive

Synthese 191 (6):1-15 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX


A potential explanation of a fact is a hypothesis such that, if it were true, it would explain the fact in question. Let’s suppose that we become aware of a fact and some potential explanations thereof. Let’s also suppose that we would like to believe the truth. Given this aim, we can ask two questions. First, is it likely that one of these hypotheses is true? Second, given an affirmative answer to the first question, which one is it likely to be? Inference to the best explanation (IBE) offers answers to both questions. To the first, it says ‘Yes’—assuming that at least one of the hypotheses would, if true, provide a satisfactory explanation of the fact under consideration. To the second, it says that the hypothesis most likely to be true is the one that scores best on the explanatory virtues: conservatism, modesty, simplicity, generality, and predictive power. Many philosophers have argued against IBE’s answer to the first question. I am interested in an objection to its answer to the second. Many philosophers seem to think that it is unsustainable: they seem to think that even if we assume that one of the competing hypotheses is true, we should not think that IBE will help us to identify it. Or, more carefully, if these philosophers are doing what they appear to be doing—namely, offering critiques of IBE that don’t depend on assumptions about the field of competing hypotheses—then their claim is that IBE will not help us to identify the truth. I believe that this is mistaken: the argument for believing it assumes a model of IBE that we have no reason to accept.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 77,985

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

A Likely Explanation: IBE as a Guide to Better Hypotheses.David Harker - 2011 - South African Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):16-28.
Review Symposium.Ken Binmore - 1985 - Thesis Eleven 12 (1):145-155.
Mathematical explanation and the theory of why-questions.David Sandborg - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):603-624.
Dissecting explanatory power.Petri Ylikoski & Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 148 (2):201–219.
Studies in the Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
Explanation and the theory of questions.Charles B. Cross - 1991 - Erkenntnis 34 (2):237 - 260.
Confirmation, heuristics, and explanatory reasoning.Timothy McGrew - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (4):553-567.


Added to PP

68 (#182,773)

6 months
2 (#326,851)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Bob Fischer
Texas State University

References found in this work

Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
The Web of Belief.W. V. Quine & J. S. Ullian - 1970 - New York: Random House.
Judgement and Justification.William G. Lycan - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 33 references / Add more references