More for my benefit than yours…

In the case of testimony, the most straightforward application of Inference to the Best Explanation would be to say that the agent infers that what the informant said is true just in case the truth of what was said is (part of) the best explanation of (among other things) the fact that the informant said it….I have so far flagged two features of Inference to the Best Explanation that make it an attractive approach to the project of providing a rule-reductive account of the acquisition of testimonial beliefs: the first is that it sanctions vertical inferences, the second that it emphasises the role of coherence considerations in inference….Nevertheless, a satisfying version of the Inference to the Best Explanation will go further, cashing out ‘best’ in terms of the symptons that guide our judgements of likelihood. Ideally, ‘best’ would be replaced by factors that have direct explanatory import, so that the account shows how we infer that the features of an explanation that would, if correct, make it the explanation that would provide the greatest understanding—the ‘loveliest’ explanation—are those that lead us to judge it also to be the explanation likeliest to be correct.Peter Lipton, ‘The Epistemology of Testimony,’ Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 29, No. 1, 1998

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.