Seeing Things: The Philosophy of Reliable Observation

ISBN : 9780199303281

Robert Hudson
298 Pages
148 x 215 mm
Pub date
Oct 2013
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In Seeing Things, Robert Hudson assesses a common way of arguing about observation reports called "robustness reasoning." Robustness reasoning claims that an observation report is more likely to be true if the report is produced by multiple, independent sources. Seeing Things argues that robustness reasoning lacks the special value it is often claimed to have. Hudson exposes key flaws in various popular philosophical defenses of robustness reasoning. This philosophical critique of robustness is extended by recounting five episodes in the history of science (from experimental microbiology, atomic theory, astrophysics and astronomy) where robustness reasoning is - or could be claimed to have been - used. Hudson goes on to show that none of these episodes do in fact exhibit robustness reasoning. In this way, the significance of robustness reasoning is rebutted on both philosophical and historical grounds. But the book does more than critique robustness reasoning. It also develops a better defense of the informative value of observation reports. The book concludes by relating insights into the failure of robustness reasoning to a popular approach to scientific realism called "(theoretical) preservationism." Hudson argues that those who defend this approach to realism commit similar errors to those who advocate robustness reasoning. In turn, a new form of realism is formulated and defended. Called "methodological preservationism," it recognizes the fundamental value of naked eye observation to scientists - and the rest of us.


Chapter 1: For and Against Robustness
The 'No-Miracle' Argument for Robustness
Probabilistic Approaches to Robustness
Pragmatic Approaches to Robustness
Epistemic Independence Approaches to Robustness
Chapter 2: The Mesosome: a Case of Mistaken Observation
Introducing the Mesosome: Rasmussen and Culp
The Mesosome Experiments
Reliable Process Reasoning
Rasmussen's Indeterminism
Chapter 3: The WIMP: the Value of Model-Independence
Dark Matter and WIMPs
DAMA's Model-Independent Approach
Model-Dependent Approaches
An Historical Argument Against Robustness
Reliable Process Reasoning
Chapter 4: Perrin's Atoms and Molecules
Perrin's Table
The Viscosity of Gases
Brownian Movement: Vertical Distributions in Emulsions
Brownian Movement: Displacement, Rotation and Diffusion of Brownian Particles Taking Stock
Perrin's Realism about Molecules
Chapter 5: Dark Matter and Dark Energy
Dark Matter and the Bullet Cluster
Type Ia Supernovae and Dark Energy
Defeating Systematic Errors: the Smoking Gun
Robustness in the Dark Energy Case?
Chapter 6: Final Considerations Against Robustness
Independence and the Core Argument
The Need for Independence Does Not Equal the Need for Robustness The Converse to Robustness is Normally Resisted
The Corroborating Witness: Not a Case of Robustness
No Robustness Found in Mathematics and Logic
Robustness Fails to Ground Representational Accuracy
The Sociological Dimension of Robustness
Chapter 7: Robustness and Scientific Realism
The No-Miracle Argument for Scientific Realism
In Support of Theoretical Preservationism
Objections to Theoretical Preservationism
Realism, the Pessimistic Induction and Preservationism
The Improved Standards Response: 'Methodological Preservationism'
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4

About the author: 

Robert Hudson received his Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Science from the University of Western Ontario in 1992. He has taught at a number of universities throughout North America, and has been at the University of Saskatchewan since 2001. He works mainly in the areas of epistemology and the history and philosophy of science.

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