Causation and models of disease in epidemiology

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (4):302-311 (2009)
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Abstract

Nineteenth-century medical advances were entwined with a conceptual innovation: the idea that many cases of disease which were previously thought to have diverse causes could be explained by the action of a single kind of cause, for example a certain bacterial or parasitic infestation. The focus of modern epidemiology, however, is on chronic non-communicable diseases, which frequently do not seem to be attributable to any single causal factor. This paper is an effort to resolve the resulting tension. The paper criticises the monocausal model of disease, so successful in the nineteenth century. It also argues that a multifactorial model of disease can only be satisfactory if it amounts to more than a mere rejection of the monocausal model. A third alternative, the contrastive model, is proposed and defended on the grounds that it links the notions of disease and of general explanation, while avoiding the philosophical naiveties and practical difficulties of the monocausal model

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Alex Broadbent
University of Johannesburg

Citations of this work

Is Meta-Analysis the Platinum Standard of Evidence?Jacob Stegenga - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4):497-507.
Is Meta-Analysis the Platinum Standard of Evidence?Jacob Stegenga - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4):497-507.
What Are Chronic Diseases?Jonathan Fuller - 2018 - Synthese 195 (7):3197-3220.
Koch’s Postulates: An Interventionist Perspective.Lauren N. Ross & James F. Woodward - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 59:35-46.

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References found in this work

Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge.
Causal Explanation.David Lewis - 1986 - In Philosophical Papers Vol. Ii. Oxford University Press. pp. 214-240.

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