Abduction, inference to the best explanation, and scientific practise: The case of newton’s optics
SourceStudies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
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Hintikka (1997, 1998) argues that abduction is ignorance-preserving in the sense that the hypothesis that abduction delivers and which attempts to explain a set of phenomena is not, epistemologically speaking, on a firmer ground than the phenomena it purports to explain; knowledge is not enhanced until the hypothesis undergoes a further inductive process that will test it against empirical evidence. Hintikka, therefore, introduces a wedge between the abductive process properly speaking and the inductive process of hypothesis testing. Similarly, Minnameier (2004) argues that abduction differs from the inference to the best explanation (IBE) since the former describes the process of generation of theories, while the latter describes the, inductive, process of their evaluation. As Hintikka so Minnameier traces this view back to Peirce’s work on abduction. Recent work on abduction (Gabbay and Wood 2005) goes as far as to draw a distinction between abducting an hypothesis that is considered worth conjecturing and the decision either to use further this hypothesis to do some inferential work in the given domain of enquiry, or to test it experimentally. The latter step, when it takes place, is an inductive mode of inference that should be distinguished from the abductive inference that led to the hypothesis. In this paper, I argue that in real scientific practise both the distinction between a properly speaking abductive phase and an inductive phase of hypothesis testing and evaluation, and the distinction between testing an hypothesis that has been discovered in a preceding abduction and releasing or activating the same hypothesis for further inferential work in the domain of enquiry in which the ignorance problem arose in the first place are blurred because all these processes form an inextricable whole of theory development and elaboration and this defies and any attempt to analyze this intricate process into discrete well defined steps. Thus, my arguments reinforce Magnani’s (2014) view on abduction and its function in scientific practise. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.