Formation of Well-Justified Composite Explanatory Hypotheses Despite the Threat of Combinatorial Explosion

John R. Josephson

The formation of well-justified explanatory theories in science appears to be computationally intractable. This is so because explanatory theories are composite hypotheses, which are combinatorially explosive to assemble, and because justification requires comparing putative best explanation with all plausible alternative explanations, of which there are too many. Nevertheless, by carefully defining the information-processing task, and by choosing a reasoning strategy that cleverly compares hypotheses implicitly with alternatives, the theory formation task can be shown to be tractable after all.*

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