Which Models of Scientific Explanation are (In)Compatible with IBE?

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In this article, I explore the compatibility of inference to the best explanation (IBE) with several influential models and accounts of scientific explanation. First, I explore the different conceptions of IBE and limit my discussion to two: the heuristic conception and the objective Bayesian conception. Next, I discuss five models of scientific explanation with regard to each model’s compatibility with IBE. I argue that Philip Kitcher’s unificationist account supports IBE; Peter Railton’s deductive-nomological-probabilistic model, Wesley Salmon’s statistical-relevance Model, and Bas van Fraassen’s erotetic account are incompatible with IBE; and Wesley Salmon’s causal-mechanical model is merely consistent with IBE. In short, many influential models of scientific explanation do not support IBE. I end by outlining three possible conclusions to draw: (1) either philosophers of science or defenders of IBE have seriously misconstrued the concept of explanation, (2) philosophers of science and defenders of IBE do not use the term ‘explanation’ univocally, and (3) the ampliative conception of IBE, which is compatible with any model of scientific explanation, deserves a closer look.
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First archival date: 2021-05-07
Latest version: 3 (2021-05-12)
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