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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 37, Issue 4, October 2020

Ted Poston
Pages 401-420

The Intrinsic Probability of Grand Explanatory Theories

This paper articulates a way to ground a relatively high prior probability for grand explanatory theories apart from an appeal to simplicity. I explore the possibility of enumerating the space of plausible grand theories of the universe by using the explanatory properties of possible views to limit the number of plausible theories. I motivate this alternative grounding by showing that Swinburne’s appeal to simplicity is problematic along several dimensions. I then argue that there are three plausible grand views—theism, atheism, and axiarchism—which satisfy explanatory requirements for plau­sibility. Other possible views lack the explanatory virtue of these three theo­ries. Consequently, this explanatory grounding provides a way of securing a nontrivial prior probability for theism, atheism, and axiarchism. An important upshot of my approach is that a modest amount of empirical evidence can bear significantly on the posterior probability of grand theories of the universe.

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