Recent work on inference to the best explanation has come to an impasse regarding the proper way to coordinate the theoretical virtues in explanatory inference with probabilistic confirmation theory, and in particular with aspects of Bayes's Theorem. I argue that the theoretical virtues are best conceived heuristically and that such a conception gives us the resources to explicate the virtues in terms of ceteris paribus theorems. Contrary to some Bayesians, this is not equivalent to identifying the virtues with likelihoods or priors per se; the virtues may be more accessible epistemically than likelihoods or priors. I then prove a ceteris paribus theorem regarding theoretical consilience, use it to correct a recent application of Reichenbach's common cause principle, and apply it to a test case of scientific reasoning. Explanation and confirmation The heuristic conception of theoretical virtues Abduction and the accessibility of explanatory power Evidential and theoretical consilience A test case: gravitational lensing Conclusion Thus natural science appears completely to lose from sight the large and general questions; but all the more splendid is the success when, groping in the thicket of special questions, we suddenly find a small opening that allows a hitherto undreamt of outlook on the whole. (L. Boltzmann, Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems).
Keywords Inference to the Best Explanation   Bayesianism   Philosophy of Science
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/bjps/54.4.553
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,177
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge.
Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1989 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 182 (3):327-329.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Robustness Analysis as Explanatory Reasoning.Jonah N. Schupbach - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axw008.
The Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach & Jan Sprenger - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):105-127.
Truth-Seeking by Abduction.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 2018 - Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

View all 66 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Dissecting Explanatory Power.Petri Ylikoski & Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 148 (2):201–219.
An Inquiry Into the Explanatory Virtues of Transaction Cost Economics.Lukasz Hardt - 2011 - Journal of Philosophical Economics 5 (1):120-147.
Studies in the Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
Theoretical Functions, Theory and Evidence.John Forge - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (3):443-463.
Is Fertility Virtuous in its Own Right?Daniel Nolan - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (2):265-282.
Confirmation, Explanation, and Logical Strength.David E. Nelson - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):399-413.
Non-Bayesian Confirmation Theory, and the Principle of Explanatory Surplus.Donald A. Gillies - 1988 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:373 - 380.


Added to PP index

Total views
165 ( #70,083 of 2,499,417 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #139,273 of 2,499,417 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes