Robustness and reality

Synthese 192 (12):3961-3977 (2015)
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Abstract

Robustness is often presented as a guideline for distinguishing the true or real from mere appearances or artifacts. Most of recent discussions of robustness have focused on the kind of derivational robustness analysis introduced by Levins, while the related but distinct idea of robustness as multiple accessibility, defended by Wimsatt, has received less attention. In this paper, I argue that the latter kind of robustness, when properly understood, can provide justification for ontological commitments. The idea is that we are justified in believing that things studied by science are real insofar as we have robust evidence for them. I develop and analyze this idea in detail, and based on concrete examples show that it plays an important role in science. Finally, I demonstrate how robustness can be used to clarify the debate on scientific realism and to formulate new arguments.

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Markus Eronen
University of Groningen

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