A Likely Explanation: IBE as a Guide to Better (but Not More Probable) Hypotheses

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Several friends of inference to best explanation have claimed in recent work that explanatory virtues, such as consilience, simplicity and increased precision, play an important heuristic role in assigning probabilities to available hypotheses and that it is this role that justifies continued efforts to investigate the scope, nature and epistemic value of the inference rule. In this paper I argue that understanding explanatory virtues as a guide to probability assignments creates a critical dilemma for advocates of IBE that has not previously been made sufficiently explicit and which has significant implications for the prospects of the rule. I conclude that the viability of IBE requires that explanatory virtues be related to a non-probabilistic conception of success.