, Volume 185, Issue 3, pp 411-427
Date: 29 Oct 2010

Inference to the best explanation: does it track truth?

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Abstract

In the form of inference known as inference to the best explanation there are various ways to characterise what is meant by the best explanation. This paper considers a number of such characterisations including several based on confirmation measures and several based on coherence measures. The goal is to find a measure which adequately captures what is meant by ‘best’ and which also yields the truth with a high degree of probability. Computer simulations are used to show that the overlap coherence measure achieves this goal, enabling the true explanation to be identified almost as often as an approach which simply selects the most probable explanation. Further advantages to this approach are also considered in the case where there is uncertainty in the prior probability distribution.

This is a revised and extended version of a paper which was published in the proceedings of the Symposium on Computing and Philosophy at the AISB 2009 Convention in Edinburgh in April 2009.