Purely Probabilistic Measures of Explanatory Power: A Critique

Philosophy of Science 90 (1):129-149 (2023)
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All extant purely probabilistic measures of explanatory power satisfy the following technical condition: if Pr(E | H1) > Pr(E | H2) and Pr(E | ∼H1) < Pr(E | ∼H2), then H1’s explanatory power with respect to E is greater than H2’s explanatory power with respect to E. We argue that any measure satisfying this condition faces three serious problems—the Problem of Temporal Shallowness, the Problem of Negative Causal Interactions, and the Problem of Nonexplanations. We further argue that many such measures face a fourth problem—the Problem of Explanatory Irrelevance.

Author Profiles

William Roche
Texas Christian University
Elliott Sober
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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