Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
Abduction and Scientific Realism
Many scientific realists think that the best reasons for scientific theories are abductive, i.e., must appeal to what is also called inference to the best explanation (IBE), while some anti-realists have argued that the use of abduction in defending realism is question-begging, circular, or incoherent. This paper studies the idea that abductive inference can be reformulated by taking its conclusion to concern the truthlikeness of a hypothetical theory on the basis of its success in explanation and prediction. The strength of such arguments is measured by the estimated verisimilitude of its conclusion given the premises. It is argued that this formulation helps to make precise and justifies the "ultimate argument for scientific realism": the empirical success of scientific theories would be a miracle unless they are truthlike.