Journal Article

Too Odd (Not) to Be True? A Reply to Olsson

Luc Bovens, Branden Fitelson, Stephan Hartmann and Josh Snyder

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 53, issue 4, pages 539-563
Published in print December 2002 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2002 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Too Odd (Not) to Be True? A Reply to Olsson

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In ‘Corroborating Testimony, Probability and Surprise’, Erik J. Olsson ascribes to L. Jonathan Cohen the claims that if two witnesses provide us with the same information, then the less probable the information is, the more confident we may be that the information is true (C), and the stronger the information is corroborated (C*). We question whether Cohen intends anything like claims (C) and (C*). Furthermore, he discusses the concurrence of witness reports within a context of independent witnesses, whereas the witnesses in Olsson's model are not independent in the standard sense. We argue that there is much more than, in Olsson's words, ‘a grain of truth’ to claim (C), both on his own characterization as well as on Cohen's characterization of the witnesses. We present an analysis for independent witnesses in the contexts of decision‐making under risk and decision‐making under uncertainty and generalize the model for n witnesses. As to claim (C*), Olsson's argument is contingent on the choice of a particular measure of corroboration and is not robust in the face of alternative measures. Finally, we delimit the set of cases to which Olsson's model is applicable.

1 Claim (C) examined for Olsson's characterization of the relationship between the witnesses

2 Claim (C) examined for two or more independent witnesses

3 Robustness and multiple measures of corroboration

4 Discussion

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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