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)
"How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses and making inferences? According to the model of 'inference to the Bestexplanation', we work out what to inter 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 BestExplanation, 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 contractive 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 BestExplanation has also been updated throughout and incudes a new bibliography."--BOOK JACKET. (shrink)
We argue in Roche and Sober (2013) that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant in that Pr(H | O&EXPL) = Pr(H | O), where H is a hypothesis, O is an observation, and EXPL is the proposition that if H and O were true, then H would explain O. This is a “screening-off” thesis. Here we clarify that thesis, reply to criticisms advanced by Lange (2017), consider alternative formulations of Inference to the BestExplanation, discuss a strengthened screening-off thesis, (...) and consider how it bears on the claim that unification is evidentially relevant. (shrink)
In this article, I will provide a critical overview of the form of non-deductive reasoning commonly known as “Inference to the BestExplanation” (IBE). Roughly speaking, according to IBE, we ought to infer the hypothesis that provides the bestexplanation of our evidence. In section 2, I survey some contemporary formulations of IBE and highlight some of its putative applications. In section 3, I distinguish IBE from C.S. Peirce’s notion of abduction. After underlining some of (...) the essential elements of IBE, the rest of the entry is organized around an examination of various problems that IBE confronts, along with some extant attempts to address these problems. In section 4, I consider the question of when a fact requires an explanation, since presumably IBE applies only in cases where some explanation is called for. In section 5, I consider the difficult question of how we ought to understand IBE in light of the fact that among philosophers, there is significant disagreement about what constitutes an explanation. In section 6, I consider different strategies for justifying the truth-conduciveness of the explanatory virtues, e.g., simplicity, unification, scope, etc., criteria which play an indispensable role in any given application of IBE. In section 7, I survey some of the most recent literature on IBE, much of which consists of investigations of the status of IBE from the standpoint of the Bayesian philosophy of science. (shrink)
Christian apologists, like Willian Lane Craig and Stephen T. Davis, argue that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is reasonable because it provides the bestexplanation of the available evidence. In this article, I refute that thesis. To do so, I lay out how the logic of inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) operates, including what good explanations must be and do by definition, and then apply IBE to the issue at hand. Multiple explanations—including (what I will (...) call) The Resurrection Hypothesis, The Lie Hypothesis, The Coma Hypothesis, The Imposter Hypothesis, and The Legend Hypothesis—will be considered. While I will not attempt to rank them all from worst to best, what I will reveal is how and why The Legend Hypothesis is unquestionably the bestexplanation, and The Resurrection Hypothesis is undeniably the worst. Consequently, not only is Craig and Davis’ conclusion mistaken, but belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus is irrational. In presenting this argument, I do not take myself to be breaking new ground; Robert Cavin and Carlos Colombetti have already presented a Bayesian refutation of Craig and Davis’ arguments. But I do take myself to be presenting an argument that the average person (and philosopher) can follow. It is my goal for the average person (and philosopher) to be able to clearly understand how and why the hypothesis “God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead” fails utterly as an explanation of the evidence that Christian apologist cite for Jesus’ resurrection. (shrink)
Defenders of Inference to the BestExplanation 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, as well as how a rule for degrees of belief should relate to Bayesianism. In this essay I advance a new argument against non-Bayesian versions of (...) IBE. My argument focuses on cases in which 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 beliefs leads to deductively inconsistent beliefs, and following IBE as a non-Bayesian updating rule for degrees of belief leads to probabilistically incoherent degrees of belief. (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)
Despite decades of focused philosophical investigation, Inference to the BestExplanation still lacks a precise articulation and compelling defense. The primary reason for this is that it is not at all clear what it means for a hypothesis to be the best available explanation of the evidence. This paper first seeks to rectify this problem by developing a formal explication of the explanatory virtue of power. A resulting account of IBE is then evaluated as a (...) form of uncertain inference. Overall, this paper offers a precise account and novel defense of one important version of IBE. (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)
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.
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)
Many epistemologists take Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE) to be “fundamental.” For instance, Lycan (1988, 128) writes that “all justified reasoning is fundamentally explanatory reasoning.” Conee and Feldman (2008, 97) concur: “fundamental epistemic principles are principles of bestexplanation.” Call them fundamentalists. They assert that nothing deeper could justify IBE, as is typically assumed of rules of deductive inference, such as modus ponens. However, logicians account for modus ponens with the valuation rule for (...) the material conditional. By contrast, fundamentalists account for IBE with an ill-defined set of relations that happen to furnish their favorite set of inductive inferences. To our eye, this seems a little too convenient—there is too much room for ad hoc, just-so stories about the “striking” correspondence between our explanatory and inductive practices. We will argue that the (explanatory) pluralism adopted by the leading theorists of the bestexplanation—philosophers of science—undermines fundamentalism. Section 1 clarifies fundamentalism’s key tenets. Section 2 presents pluralism’s challenge to fundamentalism. Section 3 considers a potential fundamentalist reply to this challenge. Sections 4 through 6 canvass the leading candidates for developing this fundamentalist reply, showing each to be unsatisfactory. (shrink)
De Ray argues that relying on inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) requires the metaphysical belief that most phenomena have explanations. I object that instead the metaphysical belief requires the use of IBE. De Ray uses IBE himself to establish theism that God is the cause of the metaphysical belief, and thus he has the burden of establishing the metaphysical belief independently of using IBE. Naturalism that the world is the cause of the metaphysical belief is preferable (...) to theism, contrary to what de Ray thinks. (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)
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.
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)
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)
It has recently been argued that a non-Bayesian probabilistic version of inference to the bestexplanation (IBE*) has a number of advantages over Bayesian conditionalization (Douven ; Douven and Wenmackers ). We investigate how IBE* could be generalized to uncertain evidential situations and formulate a novel updating rule IBE**. We then inspect how it performs in comparison to its Bayesian counterpart, Jeffrey conditionalization (JC), in a number of simulations where two agents, each updating by IBE** and JC, (...) respectively, try to detect the bias of a coin while they are only partially certain what side the coin landed on. We show that IBE** more often prescribes high probability to the actual bias than JC. We also show that this happens considerably faster, that IBE** passes higher thresholds for high probability, and that it in general leads to more accurate probability distributions than JC. (shrink)
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)
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)
Seungbae Park argues that Bas van Fraassen’s rejection of inference to the bestexplanation (IBE) is problematic for his contextual theory of explanation because van Fraassen uses IBE to support the contextual theory. This paper provides a defense of van Fraassen’s views from Park’s objections. I point out three weaknesses of Park’s objection against van Fraassen. First, van Fraassen may be perfectly content to accept the implications that Park claims to follow from his views. Second, even (...) if van Fraassen rejects IBE he may still endorse particular arguments that instantiate IBE. Third, van Fraassen does not, in fact, use IBE to support his contextual theory. (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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE) advises reasoners to infer exactly one explanation. This uniqueness claim apparently binds us when it comes to “conjunctive explanations,” distinct explanations that are nonetheless explanatorily better together than apart. To confront this worry, explanationists qualify their statement of IBE, stipulating that this inference form only adjudicates between competing hypotheses. However, a closer look into the nature of competition reveals problems for this qualified account. Given the most common explication of (...) competition, this qualification artificially and radically constrains IBE’s domain of applicability. Using a more subtle, recent explication of competition, this qualification no longer provides a compelling treatment of conjunctive explanations. In light of these results, I suggest a different strategy for accommodating conjunctive explanations. Instead of modifying the form of IBE, I suggest a new way of thinking about the structure of IBE’s lot of considered hypotheses. (shrink)
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.
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)
Lipton articulates and defends a partial description of a central mechanism of inductive inference: Inference to the BestExplanation. IBE "is widely supposed to provide an accurate description of a central mechanism governing our [inductive] inferential practices and also a way to show why these practices are reliable". In spite of its popularity, however, IBE is little more than a slogan. "So it is time to flesh out the slogan and to give the model the detailed (...) assessment it deserves. That is the purpose of this book". (shrink)
Science depends on judgments of the bearing of evidence on theory. Scientists must judge whether an observation or the result of an experiment supports, disconfirms, or is simply irrelevant to a given hypothesis. Similarly, scientists may judge that, given all the available evidence, a hypothesis ought to be accepted as correct or nearly so, rejected as false, or neither. Occasionally, these evidential judgments can be made on deductive grounds. If an experimental result strictly contradicts a hypothesis, then the truth of (...) the data deductively entails the falsity of the hypothesis. In the great majority of cases, however, the connection between evidence and hypothesis is non-demonstrative, or inductive. In particular, this is so whenever a general hypothesis is inferred to be correct on the basis of the available data, since the truth of the data will not deductively entail the truth of the hypothesis. It always remains possible that the hypothesis is false even though the data are correct. (shrink)
The common role of research programs in science and religion is now widely accepted. The next step in the methodology debate is to specify more concretely the shared standards for adequate explanations. The article presents a detailed account of the method of inference to the bestexplanation and gives examples of how the method can structure the philosophical and theological interaction with science. The resulting approach dispenses with deductive and inductive proofs of religious propositions and limits itself (...) to initially plausible hypotheses that are to be assessed according to their explanatory power. Only when a domain of data and a particular explanatory task have been specified can any serious claim be made that religious theories are equal or superior to their naturalistic alternatives. (shrink)
In this dissertation I consider the problem of external world skepticism and attempts at providing an argument to the bestexplanation against it. In chapter one I consider several different ways of formulating the crucial skeptical argument, settling on an argument that centers on the question of whether we're justified in believing propositions about the external world. I then consider and reject several options for getting around this issue which I take to be inadequate. I finally conclude that (...) the best option available to us at the moment is to argue that the antiskeptical view is the bestexplanation of our ordinary experiences In chapter two I argue that, if we hope to ground what counts as defending antiskepticism in common sense, there is an argument against the possibility of ever knowing one has succeeded in defending antiskepticism. After showing that common sense is no place to look in setting a goal for our antiskeptical project, I present the view that what will be crucial to settling on our antiskeptical goal is coming to a successful analysis of the nature of physical objects. I suggest some minimal criteria that must be met by a view in order to be antiskeptical based on our intuitions about core skeptical cases, but acknowledge that a fully successful response to external world skepticism will require the antiskeptic to engage in some much more difficult analysis. In chapter three I consider various views of the nature of explanation and conclude, tentatively, that explanation as it interests the antiskeptic is fundamentally causal. In chapter four I consider and reject some of the core views on which bestexplanation facts are so fundamental that a project of attempting to vindicate probabilistically the virtues which make explanations epistemically good. In this chapter I show that views which analyze justification in terms of bestexplanation factors fail. In chapter five I attempt to vindicate the various explanatory virtues probabilistically. In doing so I attempt to express or translate the various explanatory virtues in terms of probabilities in order to show that having those virtues makes a view at least prima facie more probable. In chapters six and seven I explain and evaluate the various arguments to the bestexplanation against skepticism present in current philosophical literature. I attempt to show that extant arguments fail to appreciate the virtues possessed by classical skeptical scenarios. In chapter eight I briefly consider some options that may be open to the antiskeptic moving forward. All routes forward contain considerable obstacles, but there are some fruitful areas of research to pursue. (shrink)
An influential suggestion about the relationship between Bayesianism and inference to the bestexplanation 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)
Arguing for mathematical realism on the basis of Field’s explanationist version of the Quine–Putnam Indispensability argument, Alan Baker has recently claimed to have found an instance of a genuine mathematical explanation of a physical phenomenon. While I agree that Baker presents a very interesting example in which mathematics plays an essential explanatory role, I show that this example, and the argument built upon it, begs the question against the mathematical nominalist.
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)
Proponents of the explanatory indispensability argument for mathematical platonism maintain that claims about mathematical entities play an essential explanatory role in some of our best scientific explanations. They infer that the existence of mathematical entities is supported by way of inference to the bestexplanation from empirical phenomena and therefore that there are the same sort of empirical grounds for believing in mathematical entities as there are for believing in concrete unobservables such as quarks. I object (...) that this inference depends on a false view of how abductive considerations mediate the transfer of empirical support. More specifically, I argue that even if inference to the bestexplanation is cogent, and claims about mathematical entities play an essential explanatory role in some of our best scientific explanations, it doesn’t follow that the empirical phenomena that license those explanations also provide empirical support for the claim that mathematical entities exist. (shrink)
We argue that a modified version of Mill’s method of agreement can strongly confirm causal generalizations. This mode of causal inference implicates the explanatory virtues of mechanism, analogy, consilience, and simplicity, and we identify it as a species of Inference to the BestExplanation (IBE). Since rational causal inference provides normative guidance, IBE is not a heuristic for Bayesian rationality. We give it an objective Bayesian formalization, one that has no need of principles of indifference (...) and yields responses to the Voltaire objection, van Fraassen’s Bad Lot objection, and John Norton’s recent objection to IBE. (shrink)
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.
This paper draws on the resources of computational neuroscience (an account of active inference under the free energy principle) to address Bas van Fraassen's bad lot objection to the inference to the bestexplanation (IBE). The general assumption of this paper is that IBE is a finessed form of active inferences that self-organising systems perform to maximise the chance of their survival. Under this assumption, the paper aims to establish the following points: first, the capacity to (...) learn to perform explanatory inferences comes with evolutionary privileges; second, adaptive actions guide beliefs and beliefs are action-oriented; and third, IBE is not inconsistent with (approximate) Bayesianism but plays a heuristic role to it. (shrink)
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)
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 has been claimed that kinetic energy is an objective physical quantity whilst at the same time maintaining that potential energy is not. However, by making use of the method of ‘inference to the bestexplanation’, it may be readily concluded that potential energy is indeed an objective physical quantity. This is done for an example drawn from the foundations of modern chemistry. In order to do so, the criteria of what counts as ‘most probable’ and ‘most (...) reasonable’ are defined and then employed for choosing the bestexplanation. (shrink)