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From Peirce’s Abduction to Lipton’s Inference to the Best Explanation: How Two Historical Developments Fill the Gap

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The philosophical literature about the relationship between Peircean abduction and the modern notion of the Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) covers a wide range of views. For a long time, it was assumed that they are virtually the same (Harman 1965; Lipton 2004). Recently, however, it has been claimed that they are completely different and there is no link between them (Campos 2009; Mcauliffe 2015). What almost all of these discussions have in common is the lack of a historical examination of the relationship between abduction and IBE. Here I provide such a historical examination and argue that abduction and IBE (as described by Lipton) are different in important aspects but these aspects can be well understood in terms of two historic developments in the history of philosophy of science, i.e. the Duhem-Quine thesis of underdetermination and Reichenbach’s distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification.


Mousa Mohammadian    
University of Notre Dame
United States


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