Explanatory inference - opening event


09 septembre 2020

13h30 - 17h45


Salle Ladrière, Collège Mercier, Place Cardinal Mercier, 14

What ? Opening event of the FNRS MIS Project “Explanatory inference” and first activity of the FNRS contact group OLOFOS in 2020-2021.

When ? September 9th 2020, 13:30-17:45.

Where ? Salle Ladrière, Collège Mercier, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium and online



13:30 Peter Verdée : Introduction and presentation of the MIS project

14:00 Pilar Terrés : Explanation as a substructural relation: motivations and consequences

14:45 short break

15:00 Pierre Saint-Germier : Relevance, hypothetico-deductivism, and the paradoxes of confirmation

15:45 João Daniel Dantas: A proposal of a game of why-questions

16:15 short break

16:30 Peter Verdée: A graph-theoretic criterion for relevance in formal and informal entailment relations

17:15 General debate and discussion

17:45 End of the workshop

The project

Early this year we started a new project in the research center CEFISES of the Institut supérieur de philosophie at the UCLouvain, financed by the FNRS. We were able to build an exciting team of very talented young researchers under the direction of Peter Verdée: doctoral student João Daniel Dantas and postdoctoral researchers Pierre Saint-Germier and Pilar Terrés.

The project is about relevance and explanation and starts from the simple observation that, in scientific explanation, explanatory elements are always supposed to be relevant to the explanandum. It is the very existence of a proper link between explanans and explanandum that makes the explanans explanatory for the explanandum. This is not the case in standard approaches to entailment. As a simple illustration, A-or-not-A is in many standard logics considered as entailed by any arbitrary formula B. Still, formulas A and B do not need to be related at all. So how can we say that B does something (i.e. it entails) to the conclusion A-or-not-A? B is irrelevant to its conclusion. Since 1928, philosophers have proposed relevance logics, well-developed formalizations of entailment relations that do avoid such irrelevances. Beyond the project of revising logical entailment, the philosophical applications of such formalisms have hardly been explored. This is surprising given the important role inherently relevant explanatory relations play in metaphysics and philosophy of science (causal explanation, grounding, structural explanation, etc.). In these areas, relevance issues are usually solved by means of techniques that do the job for the specific problem at hand, but that do not provide any deeper insights into what this intuitive need for a proper link could be in full generality. We aim to study this phenomenon of relevance in a unified and pluralistic way, without giving up on well-established inferential principles. If relevance is about guaranteeing the presence of proper links between the entailing premises and the entailed conclusion, how can this intuition be made less mysterious and studied in a principled way ?


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