Christopher Lay's Discussion Section

Humanities Core Course 

University of California, Irvine

Spring Quarter 2012

 

 

Essay Seven

Evaluating Hypotheses

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essay Seven

Ideas Draft

Due Saturday, April 7th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hypotheses

in

Arguments

"A hypothesis can be defined as an explanatory principle accounting for known facts." 

 

"In hypothetical thinking we want to know why something is true, and we reason backward to find some explanation for the facts, one that makes sense of them."

 

"We use our imagination to find some reason why things are the way they are."  

Burton F. Porter's The Voice of Reason: Fundamentals of Critical Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2002.

 

 

 

Resonance

w/

Analogical

Arguments

Just as we go from the known to the unknown in analogical arguments, by employing an hypothesis, we go from known facts to an unknown explanation.  

 

"the facts are known but the explanation for the facts is missing." 

"Whatever theory we devise must be plausible and account for the phenomenon." 

 

 

 

Evaluating Hypotheses

"How ... do we separate the genuine hypothesis from the fictional one?" 

 

"What separates a reliable hypothesis from an unreliable one or, more precisely, what features must a sound hypothesis possess?" 

"Some hypotheses ... bear little relation to reality." 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing

an

Adequate Hypothesis

"We must pay attention to these five rules in order to develop sound hypotheses." 

 

1) Consistency

 

2) Plausibility

 

3) Comprehensiveness

 

4) Simplicity

 

5) Predictability

"By their very nature, hypotheses are highly speculative, sometimes little more than educated guesses, but if we operate with integrity we can present hypotheses that are reasonable and much more likely to be correct." 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Consistency

"Consistency with other hypotheses we accept." 

 

"A new hypothesis should be congruent with the bulk of hypotheses that we believe to be true." 

 

"It should fit in with the body of explanations that from our outlook on life." 

 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Consistency

/

Revolutions

"Sometimes, of course, a new hypothesis will force us to rethink a number of our basic assumptions and becomes a new paradigm." 

 

"Skepticism seems the proper response at the start, holding onto what we have believed until such a time as we receive overwhelming proof to the contrary." 

 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Consistency

/

Revolutions

E.G.

"This happened when the Copernican theory was accepted over the Ptolemaic one, and people began to believe that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the sun around the earth." 

"such revolutions in philosophical thinking are relatively rare." 

 

 

 

Consistency

and Our

Expectations

"We should therefore demand consistency in any hypothesis we read about, and we should not except anyone to accept our novel hypothesis if it means that person must radically revise his or her beliefs." 

 

Really?

"If the hypothesis we want to accept is at variance with the bulk of hypotheses that others and we have adopted, then we should take the path of humility and accept the traditional ideas." 

 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Plausibility

"any new hypothesis must be plausible according to common sense and traditional ideas." 

 

"Every event can be explained in any number of ways, so to determine which hypothesis should be accepted we must screen out the very unlikely ones." 

"Since we do have established explanations for a great deal of occurrences in the natural world, any new hypothesis must be plausible according to common sense and traditional ideas." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"we want to begin our inquiry with the most credible explanation and end up endorsing the hypothesis that is the most plausible." 

"We certainly should never argue that if we can't explain something it must be due to the occult, because then we are committing the fallacy of ignorance." 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Comprehensiveness

"Any hypothesis that we present should be the most complete explanation we can find." 

 

"Many hypotheses will provide a partial answer to the question we are investigating, but we want the most encompassing one that will not leave important parts unexplained." 

 

"the hypothesis is not just closer to the truth but to the whole truth." 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Simplicity

Ockham's Razor / Principle of Parsimony

 

"It states that 'entities should not be multiplied beyond what is required,' that is, as simple explanation is preferable to a complicated one." 

 

"This principle is attributed to the fourteenth-century theologian William of Ockham, and it is also called Ockham's Razor or the Law of Parsimony." 

 

"In other words, it argues for economy in thinking, and claims simplicity is best in a hypothesis or any other theory." 

 

 

 

Measuring the

Adequacy

of

Hypotheses

/

Predictability

"given the conditions described in our hypothesis, we can expect certain results to follow." 

 

"if nothing can be predicted on the basis of our hypothesis, this counts against its soundness, and we should hesitate to use it in our argument." 

"If our hypothesis is sound, we should be able to predict events based on that assumption."