Inference to the best explanation and epistemic circularity

Joseph Carter, Duncan Pritchard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Inference to the best explanation (IBE) tells us to infer from the available evidence to the hypothesis which would, if correct, best explain that evidence. As Peter Lipton puts it, the core idea driving IBE is that explanatory considerations are a guide to inference. But what is the epistemic status of IBE itself? One issue of contemporary interest is whether it is possible to provide a justification for IBE itself which is non-objectionably circular. We aim to carve out some new space in this debate. In particular, we suggest that the matter of whether a given rule-circular argument is objectionably circular itself depends crucially on some subtle distinctions which have been made in the recent literature on perceptual warrant. By bringing these debates together, a principled reason emerges for why some kinds of rule-circular justifications for IBE are considerably less objectionable than others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBest Explanations
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198746904
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • inference to the best explanation
  • justification
  • rule circularity
  • perceptual warrant
  • Lipton


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