Robustness, discordance, and relevance

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):650-661 (2009)
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Robustness is a common platitude: hypotheses are better supported with evidence generated by multiple techniques that rely on different background assumptions. Robustness has been put to numerous epistemic tasks, including the demarcation of artifacts from real entities, countering the “experimenter’s regress,” and resolving evidential discordance. Despite the frequency of appeals to robustness, the notion itself has received scant critique. Arguments based on robustness can give incorrect conclusions. More worrying is that although robustness may be valuable in ideal evidential circumstances (i.e., when evidence is concordant), often when a variety of evidence is available from multiple techniques, the evidence is discordant. †To contact the author, please write to: Jacob Stegenga, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093; e‐mail:
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