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How good is an explanation?

Authors
  • Glass, David H.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Synthese
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Feb 02, 2023
Volume
201
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11229-022-04025-x
PMID: 36748080
PMCID: PMC9895044
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Research
License
Unknown

Abstract

How good is an explanation and when is one explanation better than another? In this paper, I address these questions by exploring probabilistic measures of explanatory power in order to defend a particular Bayesian account of explanatory goodness. Critical to this discussion is a distinction between weak and strong measures of explanatory power due to Good (Br J Philos Sci 19:123–143, 1968). In particular, I argue that if one is interested in the overall goodness of an explanation, an appropriate balance needs to be struck between the weak explanatory power and the complexity of a hypothesis. In light of this, I provide a new defence of a strong measure proposed by Good by providing new derivations of it, comparing it with other measures and exploring its connection with information, confirmation and explanatory virtues. Furthermore, Good really presented a family of strong measures, whereas I draw on a complexity criterion that favours a specific measure and hence provides a more precise way to quantify explanatory goodness.

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