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Epistemic Principles

A Primer for the Theory of Knowledge


Nicholas Rescher

Epistemic Principles: A Primer of the Theory of Knowledge presents a compact account of the basic principles of the theory of knowledge. In doing this, Nicholas Rescher aims to fill the current gap in contemporary philosophical theory of knowledge with a comprehensive analysis of epistemological fundamentals. The book is not a mere inventory of such rules and principles, but rather interweaves them into a continuous exposition of basic issues. Written at a user-friendly and accessible level, Epistemic Principles is an essential addition for both advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology.
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Chapter 26. Inference from the Best Systematization


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In recent decades, “inference to the best explanation” has become a prominent mode of reasoning in epistemology, metaphysics, and especially the philosophy of science.1 It is predicated on the idea that the account which affords the best explanation of some fact is thereby to be endorsed as correct. The guiding idea is that the best explanation for something’s actual existence or occurrence provides a correct account of the authentic reality of the matter, so that the objects and processes at work in this optimal explanation should be endorsed as actual. Much recent support for scientific realism—with its insistence on the reality of unobservable entities such as subatomic particles—has found its prime support in the idea that the reality of such objects is to be inferred from the fact of their figuring in what we regard as the best available explanation of the observable facts.

However, while such a procedure of “inference to the best explanation” appears to exert much appeal on first view, on closer scrutiny it encounters serious difficulties.

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