Beyond the Limits of Imagination: Abductive inferences from imagined phenomena

Synthese 199:14293–14315 (2021)
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Abstract

The present paper proposes a route to modal claims that allows us to infer to certain possibilities even if they are sensorily unimaginable and beyond the evidential capacity of stipulative imagining. After a brief introduction, Sect. 2 discusses imaginative resistance to help carve a niche for the kinds of inferences about which this essay is chiefly concerned. Section 3 provides three classic examples, along with a discussion of their similarities and differences. Section 4 recasts the notion of potential explanation in Lipton’s (Inference to the best explanation, Routledge, Abingdon, 2004) in order to accommodate inferences to possibility claims; Sect. 5 then attempts to characterise a principle underlying such inferences. Section 6 concludes by discussing how the proposal relates to other modal epistemologies, with emphasis on the potential of such inferences to produce genuinely new ideas.

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References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Minds, brains, and programs.John Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.

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