I argue that difference-making should be a crucial element for evaluating the quality of evidence for mechanisms, especially with respect to the robustness of mechanisms, and that it should take central stage when it comes to the general role played by mechanisms in establishing causal claims in medicine. The difference- making of mechanisms should provide additional compelling reasons to accept the gist of Russo-Williamson thesis and include mechanisms in the protocols for Evidence- Based Medicine, as the EBM+ research group has (...) been advocating. (shrink)
This article considers the prospects of inference to the best explanation as a method of confirming causal claims vis-à-vis the medical evidence of mechanisms. I show that IBE is actually descriptive of how scientists reason when choosing among hypotheses, that it is amenable to the balance/weight distinction, a pivotal pair of concepts in the philosophy of evidence, and that it can do justice to interesting features of the interplay between mechanistic and population level assessments.
In this paper I offer an anti-Humean critique to Williamson and Russo’s approach to medical mechanisms. I focus on one of the specific claims made by Williamson and Russo, namely the claim that micro-structural ‘mechanisms’ provide evidence for the stability across populations of causal relationships ascertained at the (macro-) level of (test) populations. This claim is grounded in the epistemic account of causality developed by Williamson, an account which—while not relying exclusively on mechanistic evidence for justifying causal judgements—appeals nevertheless to (...) mechanisms, and rejects their anti-Humean interpretation in terms of capacities, powers, potencies, etc. By using (and expanding on) Cartwright’s basic critique against Humean mechanisms, I suggest that, in order to move beyond the level of plausibility, Williamson and Russo’s position is in need of a clarification as to the occurent reading of the components, functioning and interferences of mechanisms. Relatedly, as concerns Williamson’s epistemic account of causation, I argue that this account is in need of a more straightforward answer as to what truth-makers its causal claims should have. (shrink)
In this paper, I focus on life-threatening medical conditions and argue that from the point of view of natural properties, induction(s), and participation in laws, at least some of the ill organisms dealt with in somatic medicine form natural kinds in the same sense in which the kinds in the exact sciences are thought of as natural. By way of comparing two ‘divisions of nature’, viz., a ‘classical’ exact science kind (gold) and a kind of disease (Graves disease), I show (...) that there is no justifiable ‘ontological gap’ between disease kinds and exact sciences kinds. We have instead a difference of degree. (shrink)
Inference to the Best Explanation is usually employed in the Scientific Realism debates. As far as particular scientific theories are concerned, its most ready usage seems to be that of a theory of confirmation. There are however more uses of IBE, namely as an epistemological theory of testimony and as a means of categorising and justifying the sources of evidence. In this paper, I will present, develop and exemplify IBE as a theory of the quality of evidence - taking examples (...) from medicine and showing that IBE can thereby provide the epistemological underpinning and justify the criteria of grading quality of mechanistic evidence that have been recently provided in the Clarke et al. paper on how evidence of medical mechanisms is to be construed alongside population studies. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper I offer an anti-Humean interpretation of the causal interactions in somatic medicine. I focus on life-threatening pathological states and show how Nancy Cartwright’s capacities can offer a plausible epistemology for medical processes and the singular causal claims advanced in medical diagnoses. I argue that the capacities manifested in the emergence of symptoms and signs could be tracked down if healthy organisms are construed as nomological machines and suggest that the causal reasoning from current medical practice bears (...) a tacit adherence to anti-Humean assumptions. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-28 DOI 10.1007/s12136-011-0141-1 Authors Stefan Dragulinescu, Drumul Taberei 20, Bucharest, Romania Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a central objection against diseases being natural kinds—namely, that diseases are processes or transitions and hence they should not be conceptualized in the ‘substantish’ framework of natural kinds. I indicate that the objection hinges on conceiving disease kinds as phase kinds, in contrast to the non-phase, natural kinds of the exact sciences. I focus on somatic diseases and argue, via a representative comparison, that if disease kinds are phase kinds, then exact science kinds are phase (...) kinds as well. On the other hand, if exact science kinds are non-phase kinds, then disease kinds are non-phase kinds as well. This objection should thus be rejected, under a certain caveat, though. If natural kind membership has an influence over the diachronic identity of kind members, then it is possible, in principle, to draw the phase/non-phase distinction such that an ‘ontological gap’ lies between medical kinds and exact science kinds. I show further that this caveat is unavoidable even in relation to substantive universals and ‘essential’ properties—two controversial, strong features that were traditionally associated to natural kinds. (shrink)
In this paper, I enquire whether there are Kuhnian paradigms in medicine, by way of analysing a case study from the history of medicine—the discovery of the germ theory of disease in the nineteenth century. I investigate the Kuhnian aspects of this event by comparing the work of the famous school of microbiology founded by Robert Koch with a rival school, powerful in the nineteenth century, but now almost forgotten, founded by Carl Nageli. Through my case study, I show that (...) medical science possesses some Kuhnian features. Within each school, scientists used similar exemplars and shared the same assumptions. Moreover, their research was resistant to novelty, and the results of one party were disregarded by the other. In other words, in a moderate sense, the Koch and Nageli groups worked within distinct paradigms. However, I reject the stronger Kuhnian claim that the terms used within the two paradigms were mutually unintelligible. Focusing on the semantic aspects, I argue that no account of incommensurability of reference can be given in this case, although, for sociological reasons, the two parties talked past each other. I suggest in addition that the rival scientists could have understood each other more easily if their theoretical commitments had not been so deeply ingrained, and I use the example of Pasteur to indicate that the causal account of meaning might have avoided the communication breakdown. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is an important connection between Inference to the Best Explanation and Bayesianism, in the medical context of the interplay between mechanisms and population studies. It is argued that the criteria for evaluating mechanistic evidence can be used in Inference to the Best Explanation and such use thereby increases the resilience of probabilities in a Bayesian framework. This point grows out of the emerging literature on evidence-based medicine and naturally strengthens McCain and Poston's proposal that explanatory (...) information is evidentially relevant. (shrink)
I question here the differentiation of kinds as substantive universals in Lowe and Ellis' metaphysics, by taking up, for the argument's sake, two extreme approaches on kind differentiation and kind change, a Heraclitan and a Spinozan approach. I show that, as things currently stand, Heraclitanism or Spinozism about kinds is consistent with the broad tenets of Lowe and Ellis' metaphysics of kinds.
I question here the differentiation of kinds as substantive universals in Lowe and Ellis’ metaphysics, by taking up, for the argument’s sake, two extreme approaches on kind differentiation and kind change, a Heraclitan and a Spinozan approach. I show that, as things currently stand, Heraclitanism or Spinozism about kinds is consistent with the broad tenets of Lowe and Ellis’ metaphysics of kinds.