The Intrinsic Probability of Grand Explanatory Theories

Faith and Philosophy 37 (4):401-420 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper articulates a way to ground a relatively high prior probability for grand explanatory theories apart from an appeal to simplicity. I explore the possibility of enumerating the space of plausible grand theories of the universe by using the explanatory properties of possible views to limit the number of plausible theories. I motivate this alternative grounding by showing that Swinburne’s appeal to simplicity is problematic along several dimensions. I then argue that there are three plausible grand views—theism, atheism, and axiarchism—which satisfy explanatory requirements for plausibility. Other possible views lack the explanatory virtue of these three theories. Consequently, this explanatory grounding provides a way of securing a nontrivial prior probability for theism, atheism, and axiarchism. An important upshot of my approach is that a modest amount of empirical evidence can bear significantly on the posterior probability of grand theories of the universe.

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Ted Poston
University of Alabama

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