Inference to the Best Metaphysical Explanation

Title: Inference to the Best Metaphysical Explanation
Speaker: Nick Stang (Toronto / Miami)
Location: 5th floor Renwen Building
Date: December 14, 2016
Time: 3 pm

Abstract: Contemporary metaphysicians frequently justify their theories by inference to the best explanation (IBE): we are supposed to believe a given metaphysical theory because it gives a better explanation of some set of facts than its rivals. I raise a skeptical worry about IBE in metaphysics: why do metaphysical beliefs formed through IBE count as knowledge? I argue that even if we grant the metaphysician highly favourable metaphysical assumptions (that ‘metaphysical reality’ has an explanatory structure) IBE does not generate knowledge unless we “carve nature at the joints” (Sider 2011). I then argue that no contemporary IBE-employing metaphysician has explained why we carve nature at the joints. I conclude that IBE-based metaphysics has no explanation of how knowledge in metaphysics is possible. I conclude by considering the consequences of this for IBE in the sciences and by examining alternative methods in metaphysics.