Philosophy Colloquium: Inference to the Best Theory

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 5:11pm -- ngroll
Speaker: 
Katrina Elliott
Affiliation: 
UCLA

ABSTRACT:  Inference to the best explanation is supposed to be an inference rule that directs us to be most confident in whichever hypothesis would, if true, provide the deepest understanding of our evidence.  Inference to the best explanation is also supposed to be an inference rule that directs us to be most confident in whichever hypothesis best exemplifies the so-called “explanatory virtues”, such as simplicity, breadth of scope, external consistency, and fruitfulness.

I argue that inference to the best explanation cannot be both.  The problem is that the “explanatory virtues” are not explanatory virtues at all; hypotheses that score poorly with respect to the “explanatory virtues” would, if true, provide just as much understanding as would their more virtuous competitors.  The solution is to abandon the idea that inference to the best explanation has anything to do with either explanation or understanding, while retaining the idea that we ought to choose theories on the basis of considerations such as simplicity, breadth of scope, external consistency, and fruitfulness.

Date: 
Friday, November 22, 2019 -
4:00pm to 6:00pm
Location: 
Julis Romo Rabinowitz Bldg, Room A17