Inference to the Best Explanation

Inference to the Best Explanation

Inference to the Best Explanation

Inference to the Best Explanation

Synopsis

How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses, and making inferences? According to the model of Inference to the Best Explanation , we work out what to infer from the evidence by thinking about what would actually explain that evidence, and we take the ability of a hypothesis to explain the evidence as a sign that the hypothesis is correct. In Inference to the Best Explanation , Peter Lipton gives this important and influential idea the development and assessment it deserves.The second edition has been substantially enlarged and reworked, with a new chapter on the relationship between explanation and Bayesianism, and an extension and defence of the account of contrastive explanation. It also includes an expanded defence of the claims that our inferences really are guided by diverse explanatory considerations, and that this pattern of inference can take us towards the truth. This edition of Inference to the Best Explanation has also been updated throughout and includes a new bibliography.

Excerpt

I have resisted the temptation to rewrite this book completely; but this new edition includes substantial enlargement and reworking. All of chapter 7 is new, as are over half of chapters 8 and 9 and significant stretches of chapter 3. Most of the other chapters have enjoyed some alteration. But the overall project and the tone remain the same. My primary interest is to explore our actual inferential practices by articulating and defending the idea that explanatory considerations are an important guide to inference, that we work out what to infer from our evidence by thinking about what would explain that evidence.

Some of the changes in this edition are attempts to fill in blanks I was aware of when I wrote the first edition. the most conspicuous example of this is a discussion of the relationship between explanationism and Bayesianism, an important topic I ducked entirely the first time round. Others include probabilistic approaches to explanation, and the application of some work in cognitive psychology, especially from the 'heuristics and biases' program of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Many of the other changes are additions or modifications prompted by reactions to the first edition or by self-criticism. Among the most prominent of these changes is an extension and additional defense of my account of contrastive explanation, further development of the idea that explanatory considerations are actually guiding inferences, and further responses to the objection that Inference to the Best Explanation would make it a miracle that our inferences tend to take us towards the truth. I hope the result is a clear improvement (more truths! fewer falsehoods!), but I remain impressed by how much work remains to be done. I wish that my account were at once more precise and more comprehensive. There is surely room for substantial improvement in the account of Inference to the Best Explanation and for work on aspects of inference that explanationism cannot address. Given the richness of our inferential practices, the analytic project may generate better sketches but never a complete or completely adequate account.

I am very grateful to all those who have helped my thinking about Inference to the Best Explanation since the first edition, through publication,

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