Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) invokes the “uniqueness claim” that exactly one explanation should be inferred when accounting for an explanandum. This claim has been challenged as being both too strong (sometimes agnosticism between candidate explanatory hypotheses seems the rational conclusion) and too weak (in cases where multiple hypotheses might rightly be conjointly inferred). I defend an interpretation of IBE that retains the uniqueness claim while also allowing for agnostic and conjunctive conclusions. I then argue that a particular probabilistic explication of explanatory goodness helpfully guides us in navigating such options when using IBE.
Jonah N. Schupbach is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA). He received his PhD in History & Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. His main line of research investigates the nature, logic, and limitations of human reasoning. His work on such topics crosses disciplinary boundaries, drawing regularly from philosophy, logic, intellectual history, and the cognitive, mathematical, and computer sciences. His research on explanatory reasoning in particular has been published in top philosophy and psychology journals such as British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Cognition, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Philosophy of Science. His article, “Robustness Analysis as Explanatory Reasoning,” was recently awarded the 2018 BJPS Popper Prize. For more information, visit his homepage at http://www.jonahschupbach.com/