Spencer Hey
Harvard University
In the first half of this dissertation, I develop a heuristic methodology for analyzing scientific solutions to the problem of underdetermination. Heuristics are rough-and-ready procedures used by scientists to construct models, design experiments, interpret evidence, etc. But as powerful as they are, heuristics are also error-prone. Therefore, I argue that they key to prudently using a heuristic is the articulation of meta-heuristics---guidelines to the kinds of problems for which a heuristic is well- or ill-suited. Given that heuristics will introduce certain errors into our scientific investigations, I emphasize the importance of a particular category of meta-heuristics involving the search for robust evidence. Robustness is understood to be the epistemic virtue bestowed by agreement amongst multiple modes of determination. The more modes we have at our disposal, and the more these confirm the same result, the more confident can we be that a result is not a mere artifact of some heuristic simplification. Through an analysis of case-studies in the philosophy of biology and clinical trials, I develop a principled method for modeling and evaluating heuristics and robustness claims in a qualitative problem space. The second half of the dissertation deploys the heuristic methodology to address ethical and epistemological issues in the science of clinical trials. To that end, I develop a network model for the problem space of clinical research, capable of representing the various kinds of experiments, epistemic relationships, and ethical justifications intrinsic to the domain. I then apply this model to ongoing research with the antibacterial agent, moxifloxacin, for the treatment of tuberculosis, tracking its development from initially successful and promising in vitro and animal studies to its disappointing and discordant performance across five human efficacy trials. Given this failure to find a robust result with moxifloxacin across animal and human studies, what should researchers now do? While my final analysis of this case does not definitively answer that question, I demonstrate how my methodology, unlike a statistical meta-analysis, helps to clarify the directions for further research.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,577
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem - 1954 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

View all 37 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Heuristics and Meta-Heuristics in Scientific Judgement.Spencer Phillips Hey - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):471-495.
Many Meanings of ‘Heuristic’.Sheldon J. Chow - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (4):977-1016.
Automated Choice Heuristics.Shane Frederick - 2002 - In . Cambridge University Press. pp. 548-558.
Vague Heuristics.María G. Navarro - 2015 - In Rudolf Seising and Luis Argüelles (ed.), Conjectures, Hypotheses, and Fuzzy Logic. Springer. pp. 281-294.
Smart People Who Make Simple Heuristics Work.Annika Wallin & Peter Gärdenfors - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (5):765-765.
A Model of Heuristic Judgment.Daniel Kahneman & Shane Frederick - 2005 - In K. Holyoak & B. Morrison (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. Cambridge University Press. pp. 267--293.


Added to PP index

Total views
3 ( #1,318,997 of 2,446,658 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #310,336 of 2,446,658 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes