Dr. Leah Henderson (Univ. Groningen): IBE and Bayesianism: three contexts

Datum / Uhrzeit:
21.01.20   /  18:30 - 20:00

Institut für Theoretische Philosophie

24.53.01 Raum 81



There has been controversy over the relationship between Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) and Bayesianism. Bas van Fraassen has argued that IBE and Bayesianism are incompatible rival theories, as any probabilistic version of IBE would violate Bayesian conditionalisation. However, the explanatory con-siderations involved in IBE can be represented in Bayesian terms, when we take into account how Bayesian model selection works. This gives rise to a plausible view of the relationship between IBE and Bayesianism which I have called ‘emergent compatibilism’. According to emergent compatibilism, IBE emerges naturally from a Bayesian calculation, and explanatory considerations do not need to be explicitly added as con-straints on the Bayesian priors or likelihoods.

This debate has taken place in a particular context, in which IBE is regarded as a principle for making comparative judgments between hypotheses.  
However, IBE can also be characterised as a principle operative in contexts of decision-making and of dis-covery. Each of these contexts raises new issues for the relationship to Bayesianism. In this paper, I will show how keeping the distinction between contexts in mind helps to clarify the broader debate.

Leah Henderson is an associate professor in the Department of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Groningen. She has a PhD in philosophy from Massachussetts Institute of Technology and a DPhil in physics from Oxford University. She has research interests in formal and social epistemology as well as general philosophy of science and philosophy of physics. In her published work, she has particularly explored the relationship between formal and informal characterisations of scientific reasoning. She is currently working on a project funded by the Dutch Science Foundation focusing on topics related to the epistemic role of reliability of sources of information. Her research combines formal modeling techniques with case studies based on both scientific and legal reasoning. For more information, see

Selected recent publications

  • Leah Henderson (2018). ‘Quantum reaxiomatisation and information-theoretic interpretations of quantum theory’. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.
  • Leah Henderson (2018). ‘Global vs. local arguments for realism’, in Routledge Handbook on Scientific Realism, edited by Juha Saatsi.
  • Leah Henderson (2018). ‘The problem of induction’, Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta.
  • Leah Henderson (2014). ‘Bayesianism and Inference to the Best Explanation’. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65, pp. 687-715.
  • Leah Henderson, Noah D. Goodman, Joshua B. Tenenbaum & James F. Woodward (2010). ‘The Struc-ture and Dynamics of Scientific Theories: A Hierarchical Bayesian Perspective’. Philosophy of Science 77 (2), pp.172-200.


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