The corroboration paradox

Synthese 190 (8):1455-1469 (2013)


Evidentiary propositions E 1 and E 2, each p-positively relevant to some hypothesis H, are mutually corroborating if p > p, i = 1, 2. Failures of such mutual corroboration are instances of what may be called the corroboration paradox. This paper assesses two rather different analyses of the corroboration paradox due, respectively, to John Pollock and Jonathan Cohen. Pollock invokes a particular embodiment of the principle of insufficient reason to argue that instances of the corroboration paradox are of negligible probability, and that it is therefore defeasibly reasonable to assume that items of evidence positively relevant to some hypothesis are mutually corroborating. Taking a different approach, Cohen seeks to identify supplementary conditions that are sufficient to ensure that such items of evidence will be mutually corroborating, and claims to have identified conditions which account for most cases of mutual corroboration. Combining a proposed common framework for the general study of paradoxes of positive relevance with a simulation experiment, we conclude that neither Pollock’s nor Cohen’s claims stand up to detailed scrutiny. I am quite prepared to be told…”oh, that is an extreme case: it could never really happen!” Now I have observed that this answer is always given instantly, with perfect confidence, and without any examination of the proposed case. It must therefore rest on some general principle: the mental process being something like this—“I have formed a theory. This case contradicts my theory. Therefore, this is an extreme case, and would never occur in practice.”Rev. Charles L. Dodgson

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References found in this work

The Probable and the Provable.Laurence Jonathan Cohen - 1977 - Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press.
A Mathematical Theory of Evidence.Glenn Shafer - 1976 - Princeton University Press.
Nomic Probability and the Foundations of Induction.John L. Pollock - 1990 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
Bayesianism Versus Baconianism in the Evaluation of Medical Diagnoses.L. Jonathan Cohen - 1980 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (1):45-62.

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