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When Can I Infer to Multiple Explanations?

  • Kit Patrick (University of Bristol)
Wednesday 1 June 2016
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The Institute of Philosophy, Leiden University is pleased to present a public lecture by Kit Patrick (University of Bristol) on:

When Can I Infer to Multiple Explanations?

All welcome: no registration required


According to the standard version of inference to the best explanation given by Gilbert Harman and Peter Lipton, we may infer that the best amongst competing explanations is probably true. However, not all explanations compete with one another. For example, from the fact that a medical student got a high score in a tricky test we may infer both that the student worked hard, and that they are knowledgeable in the area. In this case, the student working hard and the student being knowledgeable are non-competing explanations of the student’s high score. An account of explanatory competition would tell us when explanations compete, but no such account has been available hitherto. Accounts of explanatory competition have significance for the scientific realism debate. According to some anti-realists, the Miracle argument for scientific realism fails because there are better explanations of the success of science than the realist explanation that our scientific theories are true. But this will undermine the Miracle argument only if these anti-realist explanations compete with the realist explanation. In this talk, I will present the first extended examination of explanatory competition. I will consider and reject two prima facie plausible accounts of explanatory competition, before developing a new account and drawing out the implications for the Miracle argument.

About Kit Patrick

Kit Patrick (PhD, Bristol, 2014) is a teaching fellow and research associate at the University of Bristol. His research is in the epistemology of science, with a special focus on historical sciences such as geology. His current work focuses on bringing insights from philosophy of law to epistemology of science.

Further information:

Dr. James W. McAllister, tel. 071 527 2004, e-mail j.w.mcallister@phil.leidenuniv.nl


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