The corroboration paradox

Wagner, Carl
May 2013
Synthese;May2013, Vol. 190 Issue 8, p1455
Academic Journal
Evidentiary propositions E and E, each p-positively relevant to some hypothesis H, are mutually corroborating if p( H| E ∩ E) > p( H| E), 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.


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