A Logic for Best Explanations

Jared A. Millson
California State University, Bakersfield
Efforts to formalize qualitative accounts of inference to the best explanation (IBE) confront two obstacles: the imprecise nature of such accounts and the unusual logical properties that explanations exhibit, such as contradiction-intolerance and irreflexivity. This paper aims to surmount these challenges by utilising a new, more precise theory that treats explanations as expressions that codify defeasible inferences. To formalise this account, we provide a sequent calculus in which IBE serves as an elimination rule for a connective that exhibits many of the properties associated with the behaviour of the English expression ‘That... best explains why ... ’. We first construct a calculus that encodes these properties at the level of the turnstile, i.e. as a metalinguistic expression for classes of defeasible consequence relations. We then show how this calculus can be conservatively extended over a language that contains a best-explains-why operator.
Keywords abductive inference  inference to the best explanation  defeasible reasoning  explanation  nonmonotonic logic
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Reprint years 2019
DOI 10.1080/11663081.2019.1591108
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Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.

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Characterizing Generics Are Material Inference Tickets: A Proof-Theoretic Analysis.Preston Stovall - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-37.

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