Journal Article

Confirmation, Heuristics, and Explanatory Reasoning

Timothy McGrew

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 54, issue 4, pages 553-567
Published in print December 2003 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Confirmation, Heuristics, and Explanatory Reasoning

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


Show Summary Details


Recent work on inference to the best explanation has come to an impasse regarding the proper way to coordinate the theoretical virtues in explanatory inference with probabilistic confirmation theory, and in particular with aspects of Bayes's Theorem. I argue that the theoretical virtues are best conceived heuristically and that such a conception gives us the resources to explicate the virtues in terms of ceteris paribus theorems. Contrary to some Bayesians, this is not equivalent to identifying the virtues with likelihoods or priors per se; the virtues may be more accessible epistemically than likelihoods or priors. I then prove a ceteris paribus theorem regarding theoretical consilience, use it to correct a recent application of Reichenbach's common cause principle, and apply it to a test case of scientific reasoning.

Explanation and confirmation

The heuristic conception of theoretical virtues

Abduction and the accessibility of explanatory power

Evidential and theoretical consilience

A test case: gravitational lensing


Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.