Metaphysical Explanation and the Inference to the Best Explanation (BA thesis)

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Inference to the Best Explanation, roughly put, appeals to the explanatory power of a theory or hypothesis (relative to some data set) as constituting epistemic justification for it. Inference to the Best Explanation (henceforth IBE) is a tool widely employed among all reasoners alike, from the empirical sciences to ordinary life. Philosophical discussions do not differ in the usualness of explanatory appeals of this kind during serious argument. Often enough, the appeal is dialectically blocked, as many of our epistemic peers in philosophy offer reasons to be skeptical of IBE. Our aim with this monograph is to assess one worry that have been raised about this mode of inference: That explanatory power is not truth-conducive. We begin by discussing general features of inferences and then formulating IBE in detail. Afterward, we explicate and apply a canonical understanding of what an explanation is. This will lead to a certain understanding of explanatory power. We undergo a case study to defend the thesis that this kind of explanatory power is indeed epistemically irrelevant – unless, perhaps, when combined with other theoretical virtues. Our conclusion is that the measure what explanations are best requires taking other theoretical virtues into account, such as simplicity and unification. In this case, a complete assessment of IBE requires examining if, when, and how these alleged theoretical virtues are indeed truth-conducive.
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Archival date: 2019-01-10
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