knowing Science, Knowing Medicine

People involved in this project

Principal investigator:

School(s) Arts
Department(s) Philosophy
Funder(s) Mind Association, Senior Fellowship
Contact person Professor Alexander Bird

More about this project

This project aims to be a major contribution to the epistemology of science, with a particular focus on medicine. It argues that philosophy of science has taken insufficient notice of recent developments in epistemology, in particular a renewed focus on knowledge. The project therefore shows how philosophy of science can benefit from taking knowledge to be a central descriptive and explanatory concept. For example, it argues that science aims at knowledge and that scientific progress can be understood in terms of the accumulation of knowledge. The first part of the project will lead to the completion of a book, Knowing Science, under contract with OUP.

The second part of the project, Knowing Medicine, will take the general ideas developed in Knowing Science and apply them to the case of medical science. Medicine is fertile ground for debates that naturally call for the involvement of the epistemology of science. For example, promoters of ‘Evidence Based Medicine’ place a great deal of emphasis on their ‘hierarchy of evidence’, which ranks various kinds of medical study according to the quality of the evidence they produce. Many physicians reject the hierarchy of evidence as simplistic or wrongheaded. Or to take another example, observational studies often refer to the nine Bradford Hill criteria in order to establish causation in the case of an observed correlation. But the status and justification of the criteria are unclear and contested. This project will aim to provide a general epistemological framework, derived from that established in Knowing Science, for understanding such debates.