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Thesis Eleven 12 (1):145-155 (1985)
Abstract
The second edition of Peter Lipton’s classic text contains new and important material on the causal model of explanation, the relation of inference to the best explanation to the Bayesian account of scientific reasoning, how exactly explanation guides inference, and why we ought to think that explanatory virtues are truth-tropic. Lipton is a wonderfully clear writer and a thorough and subtle philosopher, and his book is both a student-friendly introduction to the issues addressed, and essential reading for expert epistemologists and philosophers of science. Appeal to the notion of inference to the best explanation is ubiquitous in defences of scientific realism, but also elsewhere in philosophy where the explanatory virtues of theories are often the only purported grounds for accepting or rejecting them. Despite this, most authors are far from explicit about the details of inference to the best explanation, and Lipton’s book is the most sustained investigation of the relationship between explanation and inference currently available. Furthermore, Lipton is exemplary in his engagement with the problems his arguments face, and judiciously modest in his claims, though not so modest as to court triviality. Hence, the book is replete with interesting and careful arguments. Everyone interested in epistemology or philosophy of science ought to read this book. That said, in my discussion below I will concentrate on what I regard as problems with some of Lipton’s arguments. The model of explanation which he develops is contrastive and causal. Lipton is clear that he does not think all explanations are causal, but he does think that many are, especially in science, and
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DOI 10.1177/072551368501200110
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