Nomic Truth Approximation Revisited pp 197-223 | Cite as

# Inference to the Best Theory, Rather Than Inference to the Best Explanation. Kinds of Abduction and Induction

## Abstract

An interesting consequence of the theory of nomic truth approximation, as developed in my *From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism* (Kuipers T, From instrumentalism to constructive realism. On some relations between confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Synthese Library 287. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2000), and enriched in this book, concerns so-called ‘inference to the best explanation’ (IBE). It can be argued that this popular rule among scientific realists can better be replaced by, various kinds of, ‘inference to the best theory’ (IBT). This chapter provides a survey of observational, theoretical, and referential kinds of IBT and discusses when and in what sense they may be seen as cases of ‘abduction’, that is, arguments for which an ‘abductive’ formulation and, hence, justification can be given in the minimal sense of Peirce.

Whereas it is difficult to imagine an abductive justification for IBE, especially due to its asymmetric character, it appears that abductive justifications can be given for IBT *as the closest to the relevant truth*, where ‘the (relevant) truth’ is defined as the strongest true claim that can be made with the relevant vocabulary about the relevant domain.

The relation of IBT with the instrumentalist or evaluative use of the hypothetico-deductive (HD-)method is also indicated. In particular, it is argued that the theoretical kind of IBT may well be seen as the proper realist extension of the instrumentalist *rule of success*, prescribing to choose the most successful theory, whether already falsified or not.

The chapter also introduces weak and strong forms of observational, theoretical, and referential induction. The weak forms merely conclude that a theory is true in the relevant sense and the strong forms can be seen as extreme special cases of the corresponding kinds of IBT, viz. ‘inference to the best theory *as the relevant truth*’. Finally, it is argued that the most benevolent and defensible reading of IBE combines IBT with the corresponding weak kind of induction.

## Keywords

Kinds of abduction Inference to the best explanation IBE Inference to the best theory IBT Hypothetico-deductive method HD-method Abductive justification Kinds of induction## References

- Aliseda, A. (1997).
*Seeking explanations: Abduction in logic, philosophy of science and artificial intelligence*. Dissertation Stanford. Amsterdam: ILLC Dissertations Series (1997–04).Google Scholar - Aliseda, A. (2006).
*Abductive reasoning. Logical investigations into discovery and explanation*. Synthese Library 330. Dordrecht: Springer (Extended and revised version of Aliseda, 1997).Google Scholar - Cartwright, N. (1983).
*How the laws of physics lie*. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Cartwright, N. (1989).
*Natural capacities and their measurement*. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar - Douven, I. (2005). Empirical equivalence, explanatory force, and the inference to the best theory. In R. Festa, A. Aliseda, & J. Peijnenburg (eds)
*Confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers*(Vol. 1, pp. 281–309). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 310–313).Google Scholar - Flach, P., & Kakas, A. (2000). Abductive and inductive reasoning: background and issues. In P. Flach & A. Kakas (Eds.),
*Abduction and induction*(pp. 1–27). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Grobler, A. (2004). The significance of explanatory considerations. In F. Stadler (Ed.),
*Induction and deduction in the sciences*, VCI-yearbook (pp. 53–56). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar - Grobler, A., & A. Wisniewski (2005). Explanation and theory-evaluation. In R. Festa, A. Aliseda, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.),
*Cognitive structures in scientific inquiry. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers*(Vol. 2, pp. 299–310). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 311–314).Google Scholar - Harman, G. (1965). The inference to the best explanation.
*Philosophical Review, 74*, 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Kuipers, T. (1999). Abduction aiming at empirical progress or even truth approximation, leading to a challenge for computational modelling.
*Foundations of Science, 4*(3), 307–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Kuipers, T. (2000).
*From instrumentalism to constructive realism. On some relations between confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation*. Synthese Library 287. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar - Kuipers, T. (2001).
*Structures in science. Heuristic patterns based on cognitive structures. An advanced textbook in neo-classical philosophy of science*. Synthese Library 301. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar - Kuipers, T. (2002). Beauty, a road to the truth.
*Synthese, 131*(3), 291–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Lipton, P. (1991).
*Inference to the best explanation*. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Niiniluoto, I. (2005) Abduction and truthlikeness. In R. Festa, A. Aliseda, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.),
*Confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers*(Vol. 1, pp. 255–276). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 276–280).Google Scholar - Panofsky, W., & Phillips, M. (1962).
*Classical electricity and magnetism*. London: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar - Salmon, W., et al. (1999).
*Introduction to the philosophy of science*. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Cy.Google Scholar - Thagard, P. (1988).
*Computational philosophy of science*. Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - van Fraassen, B. (1980).
*The scientific image*. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - van Fraassen, B. (1989).
*Laws and symmetry*. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar