Multiple Derivability and the Reliability and Stabilization of Theories

  • Hubertus NederbragtEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 292)


Multiple derivability (MD) is an inductive strategy to increase the reliability of a theory (Nederbragt, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 34:539, 2003). It may be considered as the strategy with which a theory is supported by evidence obtained by two or more independent methods that differ in background knowledge and technical principles on which they are based. As such, MD is a member of a family of comparable strategies to which also belong robustness, triangulation and consilience of inductions. Triangulation may be roughly defined as the use of the same or a different method, both in an independent manner, to describe an object. Consilience of induction may be described as occurring under the circumstance that a hypothesis explains two or more known or unknown (classes of) independent facts. It may be argued that robustness is the result of MD, triangulation and consilience; this will be investigated in more detail. Robustness may come in degrees. This can be argued when using the definition of MD in which emphasis is given to theoretical and technical independence of two methods that make it possible to infer the same theory. The degree in which two methods differ in this background and principles determines the degree of robustness. I will confront this with analyses of replication and confirmation. Finally, obtaining robustness by MD may not be possible. I will illustrate this by discussing a case of immunohistochemical staining of microscopical slides. Some robustness on the level of the method itself may be possible but not on the level of the theory. In that case stability of the theory is dependent on social interactions between theory, scientist and the science community.


Background Knowledge Scientific Practice Local Theory Background Theory Causal Claim 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the HumanitiesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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