Explanatory pluralism in the medical sciences: Theory and practice

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 31 (5):371-390 (2010)
Abstract
Explanatory pluralism is the view that the best form and level of explanation depends on the kind of question one seeks to answer by the explanation, and that in order to answer all questions in the best way possible, we need more than one form and level of explanation. In the first part of this article, we argue that explanatory pluralism holds for the medical sciences, at least in theory. However, in the second part of the article we show that medical research and practice is actually not fully and truly explanatory pluralist yet. Although the literature demonstrates a slowly growing interest in non-reductive explanations in medicine, the dominant approach in medicine is still methodologically reductionist. This implies that non-reductive explanations often do not get the attention they deserve. We argue that the field of medicine could benefit greatly by reconsidering its reductive tendencies and becoming fully and truly explanatory pluralist. Nonetheless, trying to achieve the right balance in the search for and application of reductive and non-reductive explanations will in any case be a difficult exercise
Keywords Explanatory pluralism  Reductionism  Holism  Medical sciences  Geneticization  Biochemicalization
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DOI 10.1007/s11017-010-9156-7
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References found in this work BETA
Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity, and Policy.Sandra D. Mitchell - 2009 - The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London.

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