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Wondrous TruthsThe Improbable Triumph of Modern Science$
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J.D. Trout

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.001.0001

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Believing the Best Explanation

Believing the Best Explanation

(p.77) 4 Believing the Best Explanation
Wondrous Truths

J.D. Trout

Oxford University Press

Philosophers often refer to a magical-sounding form of inference, called Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). But in truth, nearly all explanations are IBE. It is the chosen form of explanation in science and in everyday life. What is IBE? In barest outline, it is an explanation arrived at because it makes the best sense of the available evidence. If we are going to explain the unique success of Western science, the great leap forward, we will have to start not with the drab inductive accounting of Francis Bacon, but with the fanciful guesses of hybrid moderns like Boyle and Newton. They made grand guesses about the particles that roiled invisibly in those glass containers, and about why compressing the gases increased the temperature and why increasing the temperature increased the pressure.

Keywords:   IBE, best explanation, inference, particles, Western science, evidence

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