Explanatory Rivals and the Ultimate Argument

Research paper by Finnur Dellsén

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 26 Nov '15Published in: Theoria


Although many aspects of Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) have been extensively discussed, very little has so far been said about what it takes for a hypothesis to count as a rival explanatory hypothesis in the context of IBE. The primary aim of this article is to rectify this situation by arguing for a specific account of explanatory rivalry. On this account, explanatory rivals are (roughly speaking) complete explanations of a given explanandum. When explanatory rivals are conceived of in this way, I argue that IBE is a more plausible and defensible rule of inference than it would otherwise be. The secondary aim of the article is to demonstrate the importance of accounts of explanatory rivalry by examining a prominent philosophical argument in which IBE is employed, viz. the so‐called Ultimate Argument for scientific realism. In short, I argue that a well‐known objection to the Ultimate Argument due to Arthur Fine fails in virtue of tacitly assuming an account of explanatory rivalry that we have independent reasons to reject.