How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses, and making inferences? The model of " inference to the bestexplanation " -- that we infer the hypothesis that would, if correct, provide the bestexplanation of the available evidence--offers a compelling account of inferences both in science and in ordinary life. Widely cited by epistemologists and philosophers of science, IBE has nonetheless remained little more than a slogan. Now this influential work has been thoroughly (...) revised and updated, and features a new introduction and two new chapters. Inference to the BestExplanation is an unrivaled exposition of a theory of particular interest in the fields both of epistemology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Defenders of Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE) claim that explanatory factors should play an important role in empirical inference. They disagree, however, about how exactly to formulate this role. In particular, they disagree about whether to formulate IBE as an inference rule for full beliefs or for degrees of belief, and, if it is formulated as a rule for degrees of belief, how this rule relates to Bayesianism. In this essay I advance a new (...) argument against non-Bayesian versions of IBE that arises when we are concerned with multiple levels of explanation of some phenomenon. I show that in many such cases, following IBE as an inference rule for full belief leads to deductively inconsistent beliefs, and following IBE as a non-Bayesian updating rule for degrees of belief leads to (synchronically) probabilistically incoherent degrees of belief. (shrink)
This article generalizes the explanationist account of inference to the bestexplanation. It draws a clear distinction between IBE and abduction and presents abduction as the first step of IBE. The second step amounts to the evaluation of explanatory power, which consist in the degree of explanatory virtues that a hypothesis exhibits. Moreover, even though coherence is the most often cited explanatory virtue, on pain of circularity, it should not be treated as one of the explanatory virtues. (...) Rather, coherence should be equated with explanatory power and considered to be derivable from the other explanatory virtues: unification, explanatory depth and simplicity. (shrink)
An influential suggestion about the relationship between Bayesianism and Inference to the BestExplanation (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. (shrink)
This article discusses how inference to the bestexplanation can be justified as a practical meta - argument. It is, firstly, justified as a practical argument insofar as accepting the bestexplanation as true can be shown to further a specific aim. And because this aim is a discursive one which proponents can rationally pursue in — and relative to — a complex controversy, namely maximising the robustness of one’s position, IBE can be conceived, secondly, (...) as a meta - argument. My analysis thus bears a certain analogy to Sellars ’ well - known justification of inductive reasoning ; it is based on recently developed theories of complex argumentation. (shrink)
In his seminal Inference to the BestExplanation, Peter Lipton adopted a causal view of explanation and a broadly Millian view of how causal knowledge is obtained. This made his account vulnerable to critics who charged that Inference to the BestExplanation is merely a dressed-up version of Mill’s methods, which in the critics’ view do the real inductive work. Lipton advanced two arguments to protect Inference to the BestExplanation (...) against this line of criticism: the problem of multiple differences and the problem of inferred differences. Lipton claimed that these two problems show Mill’s method of difference to be largely unworkable unless it is embedded in an explanationist framework. Here I consider both arguments as well as the best Millian defense against them. Since the existing Millian defense is only partially successful, I will develop a new and improved account. As an integral part of the argument, I show that my solutions to the problems of multiple and inferred differences offer new insight into Lipton’s main case study: Ignaz Semmelweis’s discovery of the cause of childbed fever. I conclude that the method of difference can overcome Lipton’s challenges outside an explanationist framework. (shrink)
I respond to the bad lot argument in the context of biological systematics. The response relies on the historical nature of biological systematics and on the availability of pattern explanations. The basic assumption of common descent enables systematic methodology to naturally generate candidate explanatory hypotheses. However, systematists face a related challenge in the issue of character analysis. Character analysis is the central problem for contemporary systematics, yet the general problem of which it is a case—what counts as evidence?—has not been (...) adequately discussed by proponents of inference to the bestexplanation. Facing this problem is the price of adopting abductive methods. I sketch an account of how systematists approach the problem of evidence. (shrink)
This article considers the prospects of inference to the bestexplanation as a method of confirming causal claims vis-à-vis the medical evidence of mechanisms. I show that IBE is actually descriptive of how scientists reason when choosing among hypotheses, that it is amenable to the balance/weight distinction, a pivotal pair of concepts in the philosophy of evidence, and that it can do justice to interesting features of the interplay between mechanistic and population level assessments.
Corroborative evidence has a dual function in argument. Primarily, it functions to provide direct evidence supporting the main conclusion. But it also has a secondary, bolstering function which increases the probative value of some other piece of evidence in the argument. This paper argues that the bolstering effect of corroborative evidence is legitimate, and can be explained as counter–rebuttal achieved through inference to the bestexplanation. A model (argument diagram) of corroborative evidence, representing its structure and operation (...) as a schematic pattern of defeasible argument is also supplied. In addition to explaining the operation and theoretical foundation of corroborative evidence, the model facilitates the correct analysis and guides the evaluation (assessment and critique) of corroborative evidence as it occurs in argument. (shrink)
The author of “Parsimony and inference to the best mathematical explanation” argues for platonism by way of an enhanced indispensability argument based on an inference to yet better mathematical optimization explanations in the natural sciences. Since such explanations yield beneficial trade-offs between stronger mathematical existential claims and fewer concrete ontological commitments than those involved in merely good mathematical explanations, one must countenance the mathematical objects that play a theoretical role in them via an application of the (...) relevant mathematical results. The nominalist’s challenge is thus to undermine the platonistic force of such explanations by way of alternative nominalistic ones. The author’s contention is that such nominalistic explanations should provide a paraphrase of the proofs of the mathematical results being applied. There are reasons to doubt that proofs, construed here as formal derivations, actually contribute to the platonistc force to be undermined and, by parity, that nominalized proofs should bear responsability for the corresponding undermining. A discussion of two examples and of associated arguments by Lange, Pincock, Steiner and Tallant, point to a a wealth of worries concerning the construal of this explanatory role. Among those figure the distinction between the weak and strong role of proofs, the distinction between causal or “ordinary” explanations and genuine mathematical ones, and the unifying role of optimization explanations. More generally, the very idea that the explanatory advantages yielded by applied mathematical claims may be construed as gradual or progressive and the associated notion that the feasibility of their nominalistic paraphrases decreases as the generality and force of these claim increases, deserves a closer attention. (shrink)
In this paper I adduce a new argument in support of the claim that IBE is an autonomous form of inference, based on a familiar, yet surprisingly, under-discussed, problem for Hume’s theory of induction. I then use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the claim that induction is really IBE, and draw some normative conclusions.
How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses, and making inferences? According to the model of _Inference to the Best Explanation_, we work out what to infer from the evidence by thinking about what would actually explain that evidence, and we take the ability of a hypothesis to explain the evidence as a sign that the hypothesis is correct. In _Inference to the Best Explanation_, Peter Lipton gives this important and influential idea the development and assessment it (...) deserves. The second edition has been substantially enlarged and reworked, with a new chapter on the relationship between explanation and Bayesianism, and an extension and defence of the account of contrastive explanation. It also includes an expanded defence of the claims that our inferences really are guided by diverse explanatory considerations, and that this pattern of inference can take us towards the truth. This edition of _Inference to the Best Explanation_ has also been updated throughout and includes a new bibliography. (shrink)
I examine the warrants we have in light of the empirical successes of a kind of model I call ‘ hybrid models ’, a kind that includes climate models among its members. I argue that these warrants ’ strengths depend on inferential virtues that are not just explanatory virtues, contrary to what would be the case if inference to the bestexplanation provided the warrants. I also argue that the warrants in question, unlike those IBE provides, guide (...) inferences only to model implications about which there is real uncertainty. My conclusion provides criteria of adequacy for epistemologies of climate and other hybrid models. (shrink)
In the world of philosophy of science, the dominant theory of confirmation is Bayesian. In the wider philosophical world, the idea of inference to the bestexplanation exerts a considerable influence. Here we place the two worlds in collision, using Bayesian confirmation theory to argue that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant.
This article compares inference to the bestexplanation with Bayes’s rule in a social setting, specifically, in the context of a variant of the Hegselmann–Krause model in which agents not only update their belief states on the basis of evidence they receive directly from the world, but also take into account the belief states of their fellow agents. So far, the update rules mentioned have been studied only in an individualistic setting, and it is known that in (...) such a setting both have their strengths as well as their weaknesses. It is shown here that in a social setting, inference to the bestexplanation outperforms Bayes’s rule according to every desirable criterion. 1 What Is Inference to the BestExplanation?2 Judging the Rules—By Which Lights?3 From an Individualistic to a Social Perspective 3.1 The Hegselmann–Krause model 3.2 A probabilistic extension of the Hegselmann–Krause model 3.3 Simulations4 Results and Discussion5 Interpretation6 Conclusion. (shrink)
Bayesians have traditionally taken a dim view of the Inference to the BestExplanation, arguing that, if IBE is at variance with Bayes ' rule, then it runs afoul of the dynamic Dutch book argument. More recently, Bayes ' rule has been claimed to be superior on grounds of conduciveness to our epistemic goal. The present paper aims to show that neither of these arguments succeeds in undermining IBE.
Defences of inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) frequently associate IBE with scientific realism, the idea that it is reasonable to believe our best scientific theories. I argue that this linkage is unfortunate. IBE does not warrant belief, since the fact that a theory is the best available explanation does not show it to be (even probably) true. What IBE does warrant is acceptance: taking a proposition as a premise in theoretical and/or practical reasoning. (...) We ought to accept our best scientific theories since they are the theories that are most likely to lead to the goal of science, which is that of knowledge. In support of this claim I invoke Bill Lycan's Panglossian reflections regarding Mother Nature.1. (shrink)
Inference to the bestexplanation—or, IBE—tells us to infer from the available evidence to the hypothesis which would, if correct, best explain that evidence. As Peter Lipton puts it, the core idea driving IBE is that explanatory considerations are a guide to inference. But what is the epistemic status of IBE, itself? One issue of contemporary interest is whether it is possible to provide a justification for IBE itself which is non- objectionably circular. We aim (...) to carve out some new space in this debate. In particular, we suggest that the matter of whether a given rule-circular argument is objectionably circular itself depends crucially on some subtle distinctions which have been made in the recent literature on perceptual warrant. By bringing these debates together, a principled reason emerges for why some kinds of rule-circular justifications for IBE are considerably less objectionable than others. (shrink)
This paper discusses the nature and the status of inference to the bestexplanation. We outline the foundational role given IBE by its defenders and the arguments of critics who deny it any place at all ; argue that, on the two main conceptions of explanation, IBE cannot be a foundational inference rule ; sketch an account of IBE that makes it contextual and dependent on substantive empirical assumptions, much as simplicity seems to be ; (...) show how that account avoids the critics ' complaints and leaves IBE an important role ; and sketch how our account can clarify debates over IBE in arguments for scientific realism. (shrink)
I argue against the tendency in the philosophy of science literature to link abduction to the inference to the bestexplanation (IBE), and in particular, to claim that Peireean abduction is a conceptual predecessor to IBE. This is not to discount either abduction or IBE. Rather the purpose of this paper is to clarify the relation between Peireean abduction and IBE in accounting for ampliative inference in science. This paper aims at a proper classification—not justification—of types (...) of scientific reasoning. In particular, I claim that Peireean abduction is an in-depth account of the process of generating explanatory hypotheses, while IBE, at least in Peter Lipton's thorough treatment, is a more encompassing account of the processes both of generating and of evaluating scientific hypotheses. There is then a two-fold problem with the claim that abduction is IBE. On the one hand, it conflates abduction and induction, which are two distinct forms of logical inference, with two distinct aims, as shown by Charles S. Peirce; on the other hand it lacks a clear sense of the full scope of IBE as an account of scientific inference. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (1989) argues that Inference to the BestExplanation is incoherent in the sense that adopting it as a rule for belief change will make one susceptible to a dynamic Dutch book. The present paper argues against this. A strategy is described that allows us to infer to the bestexplanation free of charge.
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues (...) to Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Two of the most influential theories about scientific inference are inference to the bestexplanation and Bayesianism. How are they related? Bas van Fraassen has claimed that IBE and Bayesianism are incompatible rival theories, as any probabilistic version of IBE would violate Bayesian conditionalization. In response, several authors have defended the view that IBE is compatible with Bayesian updating. They claim that the explanatory considerations in IBE are taken into account by the Bayesian because the Bayesian (...) either does or should make use of them in assigning probabilities to hypotheses. I argue that van Fraassen has not succeeded in establishing that IBE and Bayesianism are incompatible, but that the existing compatibilist response is also not satisfactory. I suggest that a more promising approach to the problem is to investigate whether explanatory considerations are taken into account by a Bayesian who assigns priors and likelihoods on his or her own terms. In this case, IBE would emerge from the Bayesian account, rather than being used to constrain priors and likelihoods. I provide a detailed discussion of the case of how the Copernican and Ptolemaic theories explain retrograde motion, and suggest that one of the key explanatory considerations is the extent to which the explanation a theory provides depends on its core elements rather than on auxiliary hypotheses. I then suggest that this type of consideration is reflected in the Bayesian likelihood, given priors that a Bayesian might be inclined to adopt even without explicit guidance by IBE. The aim is to show that IBE and Bayesianism may be compatible, not because they can be amalgamated, but rather because they capture substantially similar epistemic considerations. 1 Introduction2 Preliminaries3 Inference to the Best Explanation4 Bayesianism5 The Incompatibilist View : Inference to the BestExplanation Contradicts Bayesianism5. 1 Criticism of the incompatibilist view6 Constraint - Based Compatibilism6. 1 Criticism of constraint - based compatibilism7 Emergent Compatibilism7. 1 Analysis of inference to the best explanation7. 1. 1 Inference to the bestexplanation on specific hypotheses7. 1. 2 Inference to the bestexplanation on general theories7. 1. 3 Copernicus versus Ptolemy7. 1. 4 Explanatory virtues7. 1. 5 Summary7. 2 Bayesian account8 Conclusion. (shrink)
In the form of inference known as inference to the bestexplanation there are various ways to characterise what is meant by the bestexplanation. This paper considers a number of such characterisations including several based on confirmation measures and several based on coherence measures. The goal is to find a measure which adequately captures what is meant by 'best' and which also yields the truth with a high degree of probability. Computer simulations (...) are used to show that the overlap coherence measure achieves this goal, enabling the true explanation to be identified almost as often as an approach which simply selects the most probable explanation. Further advantages to this approach are also considered in the case where there is uncertainty in the prior probability distribution. (shrink)
Inference to the BestExplanation has become the subject of a livelydebate in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists maintain, while scientificantirealists deny, that it is a compelling rule of inference. It seems that anyattempt to settle this debate empirically must beg the question against theantirealist. The present paper argues that this impression is misleading. A methodis described that, by combining Glymour '' s theory of bootstrapping and Hacking '' sarguments from microscopy, allows us to test (...) IBE without begging any antirealistissues. (shrink)
This paper considers how we decide whether to believe what we are told. Inference to the BestExplanation, a popular general account of non-demonstrative reasoning, is applied to this task. The core idea of this application is that we believe what we are told when the truth of what we are told would figure in the bestexplanation of the fact that we were told it. We believe the fact uttered when it is part of (...) the bestexplanation of the fact of utterance. Having provided some articulation of this account of testimonial inference, the paper goes on to consider whether the account is informative and whether it is plausible. (shrink)
This paper considers an application of work on probabilistic measures of coherence to inference to the bestexplanation. Rather than considering information reported from different sources, as is usually the case when discussing coherence measures, the approach adopted here is to use a coherence measure to rank competing explanations in terms of their coherence with a piece of evidence. By adopting such an approach IBE can be made more precise and so a major objection to this mode (...) of reasoning can be addressed. Advantages of the coherence - based approach are pointed out by comparing it with several other ways to characterize ‘ bestexplanation ’ and showing that it takes into account their insights while overcoming some of their problems. The consequences of adopting this approach for IBE are discussed in the context of recent discussions about the relationship between IBE and Bayesianism. (shrink)
Robert Pargetter has argued that we know other minds through an inference to the bestexplanation. My aim is to show, by criticising Pargetter's account, that this approach to the problem of other minds cannot, as it stands, deliver the goods; it might be part of the right response to the problem, but it cannot be the whole story. More precisely, I will claim that Pargetter does not successfully reconstruct how ordinary people in everyday life come reasonably (...) to believe in other minds, given only the gross behavioural evidence actually available to them. I will suggest, contrary to both Pargetter in particular and this approach in general, that reference to one's own case does, after all, play an indispensable evidential role in the justification of belief in other minds, something which obviously marks an important disanalogy between the case of other minds and that of such theoretical entities as electrons. (shrink)
It is well known that the process of scientific inquiry, according to Peirce, is drivenby three types of inference, namely abduction, deduction, and induction. What isbehind these labels is, however, not so clear. In particular, the common identificationof abduction with Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE) begs the question,since IBE appears to be covered by Peirce's concept of induction, not that of abduction.Consequently, abduction ought to be distinguished from IBE, at least on Peirce's account. The main (...) aim of the paper, however, is to show that this distinction is most relevant with respect to current problems in philosophy of science and epistemology (like attempts to supply suitable notions of realism and truth as well as related concepts like coherence and unification). In particular, I also try to show that (and in what way) Peirce's inferential triad can function as a method that ensures both coherence and correspondence. It is in this respect that his careful distinction between abduction and induction (or IBE) ought to be heeded. (shrink)
In his work on the epistemology of testimony, Peter Lipton developed an account of testimonial inference that aimed at descriptive adequacy as well as justificatory sophistication. According to „ testimonial inference to the bestexplanation ‟, we accept what a speaker tells us because the truth of her claim figures in the bestexplanation of the fact that she made it. In the present paper, I argue for a modification of this picture. In particular, (...) I argue that IBE plays a dual role in the management and justification of testimony. On the one hand, the coherence and success of our testimony - based projects provides general abductive support for a default stance of testimonial acceptance ; on the other hand, we are justified in rejecting specific testimonial claims whenever the bestexplanation of the instances of testimony we encounter entails, or makes probable, the falsity or unreliability of the testimony in question. (shrink)
In a situation in which several explanations compete, is the one that is better qua explanation also the one we should regard as the more likely to be true? Realists usually answer in the affirmative. They then go on to argue that since realism provides the bestexplanation for the success of science, realism can be inferred to. Nonrealists, on the other hand, answer the above question in the negative, thereby renouncing the inference to realism. In (...) this paper I separate the two issues. In the first section it is argued that a rationale can be provided for the inference to the bestexplanation; in the second, that this rationale cannot justify an inference to realism. The defence of the inference rests on the claim that our standards of explanatory power are subject to critical examination, which, in turn, should be informed by empirical considerations. By means of a comparison of the realist's explanation for the success of science with that of conventionalism and instrumentalism it is then shown that realism does not offer a superior explanation and should not, therefore, be inferred to. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells just-so stories has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the bestexplanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. My (...) main negative thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the bestexplanation of the psychic unity of humankind — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind. (shrink)
Aliseda’s Abductive Reasoning is focused on the logical problem of abduction. My paper, in contrast, deals with the epistemic problems raised by this sort of inference. I analyze the relation between abduction and inference to the bestexplanation (IBE). Firstly a heuristic and a normative interpretation of IBE are distinguished. The epistemic problem is particularly pressing for the latter interpretation, since it is devoid of content without specific epistemic criteria for separating acceptable explanations from those which (...) are not. Then I discuss two different normative interpretations of IBE. I. Niiniliuoto favours a “probabilistic-confirmational” translation of explanatory merit while S. Psillos thinks that the insight of IBE is lost in a pure probabilistic format. My conclusion is that Aliseda’s theory of abduction fits better with a heuristic account of IBE. (shrink)
Peter Lipton has attempted to flesh out a model of Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE) by clarifying explanation in terms of a causal model. But Lipton's account of explanation makes an adequate explanation depend on a principle which is virtually identical to Mill's Method of Difference. This has the result of collapsing IBE on Lipton's account of it into causal inference as conceived by the Causal-Inference model of induction. According to this (...) model, many of our inductions are inferences from effects to their probable causes, and Mill's Methods are canons to guide such inferences. Thus, Lipton's account of IBE fails to represent an advance over the already familiar Causal-Inference Model of induction. (shrink)
An interesting consequence of the structuralist theory of truth approximation, as developed in my From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism , henceforth ICR, concerns so-called ‘inference to the bestexplanation’ . It will be argued that this popular rule among scientific realists can better be replaced by, various kinds of, ‘inference to the best theory’.
Niiniluoto has offered an incisive and comprehensive review of the recent debates about abduction. There is little on which I disagree with him. So, in this commentary, I shall try to cast some doubts to the attempts to render Inference to the BestExplanation within a Bayesian framework.
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues (...) to Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the bestexplanation does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions. (shrink)
An approach to inference to the bestexplanation integrating a Popperianconception of natural laws together with a modified Hempelian account of explanation, one the one hand, and Hacking's law of likelihood (in its nomicguise), on the other, which provides a robust abductivist model of sciencethat appears to overcome the obstacles that confront its inductivist,deductivist, and hypothetico-deductivist alternatives.This philosophy of scienceclarifies and illuminates some fundamental aspects of ontology and epistemology, especially concerning the relations between frequencies and propensities. (...) Among the most important elements of this conception is thecentral role of degrees of nomic expectability in explanation, prediction,and inference, for which this investigation provides a theoretical defense. (shrink)
Given Quine's views on philosophical methodology, he should not have taken the axioms of classical mereology to be "self-evident", or "analytic"; but rather, he should have set out to justify them by what might be broadly called an "inference to the bestexplanation". He does very little to this end. In particular, he does little to examine alternative theories, to see if there might be anything they could explain better than classical mereology can. I argue that there (...) is something important that needs to be explained, namely, the way that properties "travel around in clusters" (eg. we often know that "when and where there is something with such-and-such property, there is also something with so-and-so other property", and so on). I argue that these clusterings of properties can be given various subtle (broadly "commonsense") explanations using a version of mereology that denies the classical axiom of "extensionality" (that is, denying that two distinct things must have distinct parts). I offer a challenge to the Quinean metaphysics: to show that these "non-extensional" explanations can be replaced by better explanations that use only classical, extensional mereology and set theory. (shrink)
This paper focuses on a combination of the antiskeptical strategies offered by semantic externalism and the inference to the bestexplanation. I argue that the most difficult problems of the two strategies can be solved, if the strategies are combined: The strategy offered by semantic externalism is successful against standard skeptical brain-in-a-vat arguments. But the strategy is ineffective, if the skeptical argument is referring to the recent-envatment scenario. However, by focusing on the scenario of recent envatment the (...) most difficult problems of the antiskeptical strategy posed by the inference to the bestexplanation can be solved. The most difficult problems with this strategy are: (1) Why is an explanation of our experience offered by the skeptical hypothesis more complex than our standard explanation? (2) Why is the more complex explanation less likely to be true? By focussing on the recent envatment hypothesis both questions can be answered satisfactorily. Therefore, the combination of semantic externalism and the inference to the bestexplanation yields a powerful antiskeptical argument. (shrink)
Inference to the BestExplanation is usually employed in the Scientific Realism debates. As far as particular scientific theories are concerned, its most ready usage seems to be that of a theory of confirmation. There are however more uses of IBE, namely as an epistemological theory of testimony and as a means of categorising and justifying the sources of evidence. In this paper, I will present, develop and exemplify IBE as a theory of the quality of evidence (...) - taking examples from medicine and showing that IBE can thereby provide the epistemological underpinning and justify the criteria of grading quality of mechanistic evidence that have been recently provided in the Clarke et al. paper on how evidence of medical mechanisms is to be construed alongside population studies. (shrink)
Locke is often interpreted as having attempted to build a foundation for knowledge based on ideas. However, textual evidence shows that the corpuscular philosophy is also a fundamental part of that foundation. Somewhat anachronistically, but also very usefully, Locke can be described as inferring corpuscularianism by an inference to the bestexplanation. Locke felt justified in believing that the corpuscular philosophy was the correct description of the world because it provided us with a better explanation of (...) a wider variety of phenomena than competing hypotheses.Keywords: John Locke; Robert Boyle; Induction; Inference to the bestexplanation; Corpuscular philosophy. (shrink)
Andrews et al. effectively argue that, despite prominent criticism, adaptationism can be a viable research strategy. We agree. In our complementary commentary, we discuss the neglected method of inference to the bestexplanation and argue that it is a valuable addition to the adaptationist's methodological practice.
Inference to the BestExplanation and Bayesianism have both been proposed as descriptions of the way that people make inferences. This paper argues that one result from cognitive psychology, the "feminist bank teller" experiment, suggests that people use Inference to the BestExplanation rather than Bayesian techniques.
Bayesianism and Inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) are two different models of inference. Recently there has been some debate about the possibility of “bayesianizing” IBE. Firstly I explore several alternatives to include explanatory considerations in Bayes’s Theorem. Then I distinguish two different interpretationsof prior probabilities: “IBE-Bayesianism” (IBE-Bay) and “frequentist-Bayesianism” (Freq-Bay). After detailing the content of the latter, I propose a rule for assessing the priors. I also argue that Freq-Bay: (i) endorses a role for explanatory (...) value in the assessment of scientific hypotheses; (ii) avoids a purely subjectivist reading of prior probabilities; and (iii) fits better than IBE-Bayesianism with two basic facts about science, i.e., the prominent role played by empirical testing and the existence of many scientific theories in the past that failed to fulfil their promises and were subsequently abandoned. (shrink)
Inference to the BestExplanation has become the subject of a lively debate in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists maintain, while scientific antirealists deny, that it is a compelling rule of inference. It seems that any attempt to settle this debate empirically must beg the question against the antirealist. The present paper argues that this impression is misleading. A method is described that, by combining Glymour's theory of bootstrapping and Hacking's arguments from microscopy, allows us (...) to test IBE without begging any antirealist issues. (shrink)
Inference to the bestexplanation has at times appeared almost indistinguishable from a rule that recommends simply that we should infer the hypothesis which is most plausible given available evidence. In this paper I argue that avoiding this collapse requires the identification of peculiarly explanatory virtues and consider Woodward's concept of invariance as an example of such a virtue. An additional benefit of augmenting IBE with Woodward's model of causal explanation is also suggested.
In pedagogical contexts and in everyday life, we often come to believe something because it would best explain the data. What is it about the explanatory endeavor that makes it essential to everyday learning and to scientific progress? There are at least two plausible answers. On one view, there is something special about having true explanations. This view is highly intuitive: it’s clear why true explanations might improve one’s epistemic position. However, there is another possibility—it could be that the (...) process of seeking, generating, or evaluating explanations itself puts one in a better epistemic position, even when the outcome of the process is not a true explanation. In other words, it could be that accurate explanations are beneficial, or it could be that high-quality explaining is beneficial, where there is something about the activity of looking for an explanation that improves our epistemic standing. The main goal of this paper is to tease apart these two possibilities, both theoretically and empirically, which we align with “Inference to the BestExplanation” and “Explaining for the BestInference”, respectively. We also provide some initial support for EBI and identify promising directions for future research. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells “just-so stories” has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the bestexplanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. My (...) main negative thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the bestexplanation of “the psychic unity of humankind” — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind. (shrink)