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Chapter Summary

Explanations and Inference

  • Even though an explanation is not an argument, an explanation can be part of an argument—a powerful inductive argument known as inference to the best explanation.

  • In inference to the best explanation, we reason from premises about a state of affairs to an explanation for that state of affairs.

Theories and Consistency

  • To be worthy of consideration, a theory must meet the minimum requirement for consistency.

Theories and Criteria

  • We use the criteria of adequacy to judge the plausibility of a theory in relation to competing theories.

  • The best theory is the one that meets the criteria of adequacy better than any of its competitors.

  • The criteria of adequacy are testability (whether there is some way to determine if a theory is true), fruitfulness (the number of novel predictions made), scope (the amount of diverse phenomena explained), simplicity (the number of assumptions made), and conservatism (how well a theory fits with existing knowledge).

Telling Good Theories from Bad

  • Judging the worth of a theory is a four-step process called the TEST formula: (1) Stating the theory and checking for consistency, (2) assessing the evidence for the theory, (3) scrutinizing alternative theories, and (4) testing the theories with the criteria of adequacy.


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