Robustness: Material, and Inferential, in the Natural and Human Sciences

  • William C. WimsattEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 292)


I review the scientific situation with the emergence of population biology that led Richard Levins to introduce the idea of looking for robust theorems, and the influences that lead Donald Campbell to introduce “triangulation”. My review tied these two notions together, and looked for other convergent methodologies that showed some of the same characteristics I baptized as “robustness analysis”. I review the main types, and then turn to a further characterization of material robustness, which has become the primary focus of studies in biology and elsewhere in the last decade. I discuss one key source of this robustness—sexual recombination—and then close with some remarks on robustness, complexity, fragility, and generative entrenchment.


Population Biology Robustness Analysis Sexual Recombination Robust Inference Weak Neutral Current 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I wish to thank Lena Soler for her imaginative conception of a conference on robustness, for inviting me, and for the productivity of her resulting vision and Tom Nickles for continuing productive interactions over many years.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Conceptual and Historical Studies of ScienceThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Center for Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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