Belief is Not the Issue: A Defence of Inference to the Best Explanation

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 19
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Similar Documents
Information Report



Views: 11 | Pages: 19

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Defences of inference to the best explanation (IBE) frequently associate IBE with scientific realism, the idea that it is reasonable to believe our best scientific theories. I argue that this linkage is unfortunate. IBE does not warrant belief, since
  Belief is Not the Issue: A Defence of Inference to the Best Explanation Gregory W. Dawes This is a pre-publication copy of the following article: “Belief is Not the Issue: A Defence of Inference to the Best Explanation,which has been publishe! in final for" at http:##onlinelibrary$wiley$co"#!oi#%&$%%%%#'$%()*-++$&%$&&.*$x#abstractThis !raft paper is license! un!er the/reati0e /o""ons Attribution-1hare Ali2e $& 3icense$ 4ou are free to cite this "aterial pro0i!e! you attribute it to its author5you "ay also "a2e copies,but you "ust inclu!e the author6s na"e an! a copy of this licence$http:##creati0eco""ons$org#licenses#by-sa#$&# Abstract Defences of inference to the best explanation 7IBE8 fre9uently associate IBE with scientific realis", the i!ea that it is reason-able to belie0e our best scientific theories$ I argue that this lin2-age is unfortunate$ IBE !oes not warrant belief, since the fact that a theory is the best a0ailable explanation !oes not show it to be 7e0en probably8 true$ hat IBE !oes warrant is accept-ance: ta2ing a proposition as a pre"ise in theoretical an!#or practical reasoning$ e ought to accept our best scientific theor-ies since they are the theories that are "ost li2ely to lea! to the goal of science, which is that of 2nowle!ge$ In support of this clai" I in0o2e Bill 3ycan6s ;anglossian reflections regar!ing <other Nature$ % % I a" grateful to Alan <usgra0e for !iscussions, often o0er lunch, regar!ing the sub'ect of this paper$ hile I !on6t expect hi" to accept "y conclusions, I loo2 forwar! to further li0ely !ebates$ 1  Introuction  A fre9uent pattern of reasoning, both in the sciences an! in e0ery!ay life, is that 2nown as =inference to the best explanation6 7IBE8$ >ere6-s an e0ery!ay exa"ple$ =I hear a scratching in the wall, the patter of little feet at "i!night, "y cheese !isappears ? an! I infer that a "ouse has co"e to li0e with "e6$   Each of these pheno"ena ? the scratching, the patter, the !isappearance of the cheese ? coul! ha0e another explanation$ There "ight e0en exist a single, alternati0e ex-planation that co0ers the" all$ But for a 0ariety of reasons, such as si"plicity, econo"y, an! plausibility, the "ouse hypothesis see"s to be the best$>ere6s another exa"ple$ In %@.+ /harles Darwin publishe! On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection $ In that wor2 he cites a 0ariety of pheno"ena ? the geographical !istribution of spe-cies, the existence of ho"ologous anato"ic structures an! 0estigial organs, the rese"blance of e"bryos of !iffering species, an! the fossil recor! ? an! suggests they are better explaine! gi0en his the-ory of natural selection than on the alternati0e 0iew of special cre-ation$ >is conte"poraries woul! ha0e !escribe! this as a =consilience of in!uctions6, in which a range of !ifferent pheno"ena are seen to be explicable by reference to the one causal principle$   But particu-larly since Darwin was contrasting this potential explanation with another ? that of special creation (  ? it is "ore helpfully 0iewe! as an inference to the best explanation$1ince this pattern of explanation was gi0en its "o!ern na"e by ilbert >ar"an in %+)., .  its significance has been !ispute!$ ust what, if anything, shoul! be the conclusion of an inference of this 2in!C Does the fact that so"ething is the best a0ailable explanation  Bas /$ 0an raassen, The Scientific Image /laren!on 3ibrary of 3ogic an! ;hilosophy 7xfor!: /laren!on ;ress, %+@&8, pp$%+?&$  ohn 3osee,  A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science r! e!i-tion5   pus Boo2s 7xfor!: xfor! Fni0ersity ;ress, %++8, p$%$ ( Neal /$ illespie, Charles Darin and the Problem of Creation  7/hicago: Fni0ersity of /hicago ;ress, %+*+8, pp$)*?@%$ . ilbert >$ >ar"an, =The Inference to the Best Explanation6, The Philo!sophical "e#ie  *( 7%+).8, pp$@@?+.$ !  gi0e us a!e9uate reason to belie0e in the existence of the entities that it "entionsC r shoul! we withhol! belief, since the explanation in 9uestion "ay be nothing "ore than =the best of a ba! lot6C )  In!ee!, is there any 0alue in this line of reasoning at allC Is it, perhaps, nothing "ore than a !resse!-up 0ersion of the fallacy of affir"ing the conse9uentC  A notable feature of these !iscussions is that they are associate! with wi!er !ebates regar!ing scientific realis"$ Do we ha0e a!-e9uate reason to regar! our best scientific theories as 7approxi"ately or partially8 true, e0en when they spea2 of entities we coul! ne0er obser0eC r shoul! we conclu!e "erely that our best theories are =e"pirically a!e9uate6, offering a correct account of the obser0able regularities of our worl!C As it happens, "ost !efen!ers of IBE ha0e been scientific realists, who refuse to belie0e =that a false theory woul! explain, in so satisfactory a "anner G se0eral large classes of facts6$ *  <any opponents, on the other han!, ha0e been non-realists, who oppose the i!ea that IBE warrants belief, particularly belief in unobser0able entities$It is wi!ely ac2nowle!ge!, e0en by realists, that the non-realists ha0e a point$ After all, to belie0e a theory "eans hol!ing it to be true, an! we cannot si"ply assu"e that the best a0ailable explana-tion will be the true one$ The proble" here is twofol!$ irstly, the true explanation "ay be one we ha0e not yet !isco0ere!$ 1econ!ly, at least so"e of the criteria by which we 'u!ge an explanation to be the best a0ailable 7such as si"plicity8 are not clearly truth-in!icati0e$But shoul! the !ebate regar!ing IBE be so closely relate! to that regar!ing realis"C <y argu"ent is that this lin2age has been unfor-tunate$ It is focuse! attention on the 9uestion of whether IBE gi0es us a!e9uate reason to belie0e a theory, that is to say, to hol! it to be true$ It is this focus on belief that I shall argue is unhelpful$ The i"-portant issue, as far as IBE is concerne!, is not whether we ha0e a!-e9uate reason to belie#e  a theory, but whether we ha0e a!e9uate reason to accept  it$ Acceptance, I shall argue, will often go han!-in- ) Bas /$ 0an raassen, $as and Symmetry 7xfor!: xfor! Fni0ersity ;ress, %+@+8, p$%($ * /harles Darwin, On the Origin of Species n! e!ition 73on!on: ohn <ur-ray, %@)&8, pp$(@&?@%$ "  han! with belief, but it nee! not !o so$ Nor is it i"portant that it shoul!$ It is sufficient for the progress of science, that scientists shoul! accept the best a0ailable explanation, whether or not they happen to belie0e it$ <ore i"portantly, we ha0e excellent reasons to accept the best a0ailable explanation, e#en if   7as non-realists argue8 we ha0e little or no reason to hol! it to be true$ Belief, in other wor!s, is not the issue$ 1. Acceptance an Belief <y argu"ent, therefore, relies on being able to "a2e a clear !istinc-tion between acceptance an! belief$ I a" not basing this !istinction on the way in which these ter"s are actually use!, in e0ery!ay speech$ It "ay be the case that in e0ery!ay usage, acceptance is  of-ten synony"ous with belief$ hat I a" arguing is that these ter"s can be use! to capture a real !istinction in propositional attitu!es$ To accept a proposition is not necessarily to belie0e it, e0en if the two often go together$ There is nothing special about "y use of the wor! =acceptance6 here$ The !istinction coul!, perhaps, be capture! by us-ing another wor!, such as =assent6$ @  But tal2 of acceptance an! belief is a helpful way of i!entifying two propositional attitu!es that are !istinct e0en if co""only con'oine!$ A nu"ber of recent authors ha0e also atte"pte! to !istinguish between belief an! acceptance$ +  But they ha0e !one so for a 0ariety of purposes an! in a 0ariety of ways$ 1o"e !efinitions of what it "eans to accept  a proposition "a2e acceptance in!istinguishable fro" belief$ D$ 1$ /lar2e, for instance, insists that acceptance actu-ally entails belief, but assu"es a broa! 0iew of acceptance that I @ illia" ;$ Alston, =Belief, Acceptance, an! Heligious aith6, in %aith& %ree!dom& and "ationality' Philosophy of "eligion Today , e!ite! by $ or!an an! D$ >owar!-1ny!er 73on!on: How"an  3ittlefiel!, %++)8, pp$?*, at p$@$ + These inclu!e inclu!ing illia" Alston, <ichael Brat"an, 3$ onathan /ohen, Jeith 3ehrer, ohn ;erry, Hobert 1talna2er, an! Bas 0an raassen: see ;ascal Engel, =Intro!uction6 in  (elie#ing and Accepting  , e!-ite! by ;ascal Engel, ;hilosophical 1tu!ies 1eries @ 7Dor!recht: Jluwer, &&&8, pp$%?&, at p$@, as well as the literature cite! below$ #  shall shortly re'ect$ %&  1i"ilarly, ;aul >orwich argues that accept-ance is functionally i!entical with belief, but assu"es an instru-"entalist 0iew of acceptance ? =belie0ing 'ust the obser0able con-se9uences of a theory6 %%  ? that I also re'ect$ ne can also !efine belief in ways that un!er"ine this !istinction$ >er"an !e Hegt, for in-stance, !efines belief as =a !isposition to act6$ %  But if one !efines be-lief in ter"s of a !isposition to act, then it is practically in!istin-guishable fro" what I shall call =acceptance6$ 1.1 Assu$ptions %egaring Belief 1o what I nee! for the purposes of "y argu"ent is a wor2able concept of acceptance$ I shall spen! little ti"e on what I "ean by be-lief$ I a" assu"ing that to belie0e so"ething is to consi!er it to be true, the =so"ething6 here being concei0e! of as a proposition, an ut-terance, or so"e other bearer of "eaning$ Fn!erstoo! in this way, belief is not to be thought of as a !isposition to act, nor e0en as a !is-position to assert$ It can be !efine! as a !isposition, but its "ost characteristic feature is a ten!ency to experience a certain 2in! of "ental state$ Belief is, as 3$ onathan /ohen writes, a !isposition, when one is atten!ing to issues raise!, or ite"s re-ferre! to, by the proposition that p, nor"ally to feel it true that  p an! false that not-  p , whether or not one is willing to act, spea2, or reason accor!ingly$ %  A person who has such a !isposition will, if she is acting rationally an! has no reason to !o otherwise, be incline! to act in ways that are consistent with her belief$ 1he will also be incline!, other things be-ing e9ual, to assert the truth of that which she belie0es$ 7Belief can %& D$ 1$ /lar2e, =Does Acceptance Entail BeliefC6,  American Philosophical )uarterly  % 7%++(8, pp$%(.?.., at p$%(+$ %% ;aul >orwich, =n the Nature an! Nor"s of Theoretical /o""it"ent6,  Philosophy of Science  .@ 7%++%8, pp$%?%(, at p$$ % >er"an /$ D$ $ !e Hegt, =To Belie0e in Belief: ;opper an! 0an raassen on 1cientific Healis"6, *ournal for +eneral Philosophy of Science , -eits!chrift f.r allgemeine /issenschaftstheorie  * 7&&)8, pp$%?+, at p$$ % 3$ onathan /ohen,  An 0ssay on (elief and Acceptance 7xfor!: /laren!on ;ress, %++8, p$($ &
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks

We need your sign to support Project to invent "SMART AND CONTROLLABLE REFLECTIVE BALLOONS" to cover the Sun and Save Our Earth.

More details...

Sign Now!

We are very appreciated for your Prompt Action!