Explanatory Consolidation: From ‘Best’ to ‘Good Enough’

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):157-177 (2020)
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In science and everyday life, we often infer that something is true because it would explain some set of facts better than any other hypothesis we can think of. But what if we have reason to believe that there is a better way to explain these facts that we just haven't thought of? Wouldn't that undermine our warrant for believing the best available explanation? Many philosophers have assumed that we can solve such underconsideration problems by stipulating that a hypothesis should not only be 'the best' explanation available; rather, it should also be 'good enough'. Unfortunately, however, the only current suggestion for what it might mean to say that an explanation is 'good enough' is, well, not good enough. This paper aims to provide a better account of what is required for an explanatory hypothesis to be considered 'good enough'. In brief, the account holds that a `good enough' hypothesis is one that has gone through a process that I call explanatory consolidation, in which accumulating evidence and failed attempts to formulate better alternatives gradually make it more plausible that the explanation we currently have is better than any other that could be formulated.

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Finnur Dellsén
University of Iceland


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