Variational Causal Claims in Epidemiology

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 52 (4):540-554 (2009)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

The paper examines definitions of ‘cause’ in the epidemiological literature. Those definitions all describe causes as factors that make a difference to the distribution of disease or to individual health status. In the philosophical jargon, causes in epidemiology are difference-makers. Two claims are defended. First, it is argued that those definitions underpin an epistemology and a methodology that hinge upon the notion of variation, contra the dominant Humean paradigm according to which we infer causality from regularity. Second, despite the fact that causes be defined in terms of ‘difference-making’, this cannot fixes the causal metaphysics. Causality in epidemiology ought to be interpreted according to the epistemic theory. In this approach relations are deemed causal depending on the evidence and on the available methods. Indeed, evidence to establish causal claims requires difference-making considerations; furthermore, those definitions of cause reflect the ‘variational’ epistemology and methodology of epidemiology.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,429

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-04-28

Downloads
91 (#133,297)

6 months
1 (#416,470)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Federica Russo
University of Amsterdam

References found in this work

Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - Oxford University Press.

View all 36 references / Add more references