Conjunctive Explanations and Inference to the Best Explanation

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Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) advises reasoners to infer exactly one explanation. This uniqueness claim apparently binds us when it comes to “conjunctive explanations,” distinct explanations that are nonetheless explanatorily better together than apart. To confront this worry, explanationists qualify their statement of IBE, stipulating that this inference form only adjudicates between competing hypotheses. However, a closer look into the nature of competition reveals problems for this qualified account. Given the most common explication of competition, this qualification artificially and radically constrains IBE’s domain of applicability. Using a more subtle, recent explication of competition, this qualification no longer provides a compelling treatment of conjunctive explanations. In light of these results, I suggest a different strategy for accommodating conjunctive explanations. Instead of modifying the form of IBE, I suggest a new way of thinking about the structure of IBE’s lot of considered hypotheses.
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