Acta Analytica

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 15–38 | Cite as

Corroboration: Sensitivity, Safety, and Explanation

  • David GoddenEmail author


Corroborative evidence may be understood as having two epistemic effects: a primary effect by which it offers direct evidence for some claim, and a secondary effect by which it bolsters the appraised probative, or evidential, value of some other piece of evidence for that claim. This paper argues that the bolstering effect of corroborative evidence is epistemically legitimate because corroboration provides a reason to count the belief based on the initial evidence as sensitive to, and safe from, defeat in a way that it was not previously recognized to be. Discovering that our initial evidence tracks the truth in a way we previously did not recognize provides a reason to positively reappraise the probative value of that evidence. The final section of the paper relates the proposed sensitivity- and safety-based account of corroboration to an explanation-based account.


Corroboration Corroborative evidence Inference to the best explanation Safety Sensitivity Truth tracking 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented as conference presentations at the Canadian Society for Epistemology, Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, on 23 November 2012, and the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology 105th Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, on 28 February 2013, and as philosophy department talks at Old Dominion University, on 5 February 2013, the University of Waterloo, on 7 April 2016, McMaster University, on 8 April 2016, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on 7 October 2016. Of those audiences, thanks are especially due to Dale Miller, David Matheson, Cecilea Mun, and Bill Roche for their insightful and instructive comments. Thanks to David Matheson for, early on in this project, calling my attention to the fact that, in addition to making a view defeasibly sensitive, corroboration similarly makes it defeasibly safe. To Scott Aikin, Keith DeRose, Catherine Elgin, John Grey, Matt McKeon, and Duncan Pritchard I offer my sincere thanks for their careful readings of earlier versions of this paper, for their illuminating and constructive criticisms, and for their encouragement of the project generally. Additionally, the anonymous reviewers of this paper have my thanks.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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