Archive | May 2013

Workshop on Randomization and Related Topics in Causal Inference in Medicine

11 June 2013

Department of Philosophy, 9 Woodland Road, Bristol


We intend to commence at 10.00. The workshop will take place in the Philosophy Common Room, Ground Floor, 9 Woodland Road. The programme is not quite finalised and we may have an additional speaker.

Stephen Senn (Centre de Recherche Public de la Santé, Luxembourg) “Being a statistician means never having to say you’re certain”

David Papineau (Department of Philosophy, King’s College, London) “What kind of causes do randomized trials tell us about?”

George Davey-Smith (MRC Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology, Bristol) “Origins of ‘fair tests’ of treatment in the late 19th century: how and why”

John Worrall (Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics) “Removing the ‘mask’: a clear-eyed view of the virtues of “blinding” in clinical trials”

Alexander Bird (Department of Philosophy, Bristol) “From Mill’s Method of Difference to randomization in the logic of comparative trials”

Further information…

Call for Registration: Evidence in Healthcare Reform

Symposium at the Brocher Foundation, Geneva, 4-5 July 2013

Speakers: Alex Broadbent, Nancy Cartwright, Michael Marmot, Alfredo Morabia, Justin Parkhurst, Anya Plutinski, Jacob Stegenga, and Sridhar Venkatapuram.

Organised by Alex Broadbent ( Sridhar Venkatapuram (

Register here:


Health care financing and provision is undergoing a crisis around the world. In Europe, the cost of medical care are increasing, along with levels of national spending on healthcare. Moreover the rate of increase exceeds the rate of regional economic growth. Something must be done, but it is far from clear what is the right political or social response. In much of the developing world, on the other hand, the situation is the reverse: increases in prosperity, particularly in the BRICS countries, have not been accompanied by significant healthcare investment; or else significant healthcare investment has benefited only a small portion of society. South Africa, for example, has some of the best medical care in the world, but it is not available to the majority of the population, and preventable morbidity and mortality remains shockingly high. And in North America, there are both high medical costs and highly unequal access, something which the present government has spent considerable political capital attempting to remedy. In short, there is very little apparent agreement on how a healthcare system should be organized in order to be effective, efficient, and equitable, despite a near-universal acceptance that health is both morally and economically important to individual and national wellbeing.

Against this backdrop, this symposium is convened to examine the philosophical underpinnings of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. Public and political debate about healthcare reform inevitably focuses on who should pay and who should provide. This workshop, however, seeks to address the prior question of what works: what healthcare measures are effective for improving population health, how we know they have been effective, and what evidence we need before confidently deploying them in a given sociopolitical setting.  Indeed, much of the tumult surrounding health care reform can only be understood when health policy is seen to share important common elements with other public policies. It is not determined only by scientific evidence, nor must it answer only to that evidence. It is also variously influenced by legal rights, bureaucratic norms, political negotiations, and market mechanism, and it must balance these forces against the scientific evidence for effectiveness. In this workshop we focus on the way scientific evidence fits into this complex sociopolitical setting: how it can, how in fact it does, and how it ought to influence healthcare reform.

In particular, the symposium has the following goals:

  1. To understand the notions of effectiveness, efficiency and equity as they are and ought to be employed in healthcare reform. Especially, to identify the normative implications of the first two, and to clarify the third.
  2. To assess the use of systematic reviews to drive healthcare reform. Especially, to bring together the various criticisms of their use, to identify evidence (if any) for their effectiveness, and to arrive at a clear “best practice” recommendation for the use of evidence in healthcare reform.
  3. To highlight the challenges facing developing countries attempting healthcare reform. Especially, to identify novel ways in which social determinants of health and disease might be managed as part of healthcare reform, and to specify the evidence necessary for such measures.

To register, visit

The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Series of Special Thematic Issues on the Philosophy of Medicine

Since its inaugural issue in 1976, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy has been at the very center of critical debate in the philosophy of medicine, and papers on all aspects of the topic are always welcome.  Additionally, we invite essays for a series of special thematic issues that focus on Clinical Reasoning and Evidence Based Medicine. Authors may address any of a wide range of topics, including

>  what counts as evidence and how it is used

>  critical analysis of applications of decision theory; the role of artificial decision support systems as replacements for, or augmentations of, clinician decision making

>  integration of empirical/behavioral and conceptual/logical aspects of reasoning

>  use of case studies in medical reasoning to address long-standing problems in the philosophy of science

>  causal inference in medicine

>  what is meant by “mechanistic reasoning”, and why this is criticized in some accounts of evidence based medicine

>  implications of the systems turn (e.g., associated with Institute of Medicine reports on error and quality) for the way clinical reasoning is understood

>  the social epistemology of health care practices

>  ways information science and technology alter/inform clinical reasoning

>  a philosophical analysis of psychological accounts of medical reasoning, including work on heuristics and biases

>  the nature, function, and logic of “taking a patient history”

>  nature of differential diagnosis, and the way disease taxonomies structure clinical reasoning and decision making

>  scope and limits of Bayesian accounts of clinical reasoning

>  use of operations/ human factors/ systems engineering and/or management sciences  to “manage” clinical reasoning and decision making

>  the appropriateness of using formal accounts as normative for clinical reasoning

>  the nature of clinical competence and capacities, and the role an analysis of capacities might play in understanding the reasoning process

>  what of importance might be lost (if anything) with efforts to make fully explicit the “art” of clinical reasoning and judgment.

To help with planning future issues, potential contributors are encouraged to send tentative topics and/or titles to the editors.  This, however, is not a prerequisite for inclusion in upcoming issues, and all essays will be vetted through the same peer review process. Essays should be prepared for blinded peer review, with author and identifying information appearing only on a cover sheet, and submitted to both George Khushf and Ana Iltis (emails listed above).

Papers may be up to 25-35 typed double spaced pages in length, including notes and references, although that is only a rough guideline. Longer treatments of key topics may be considered. Papers should conform to Journal style:

Deadline for the first issue in this series: August 15, 2012.

Other essays on the philosophy of medicine that do not fit with the special topics theme should be sent directly to the editorial office of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy at

Causality in/and Medicine: Symposium

A symposium on Causality in/and Medicine will be held at the Conference on Logic and Philosophy of Science (CLPS13), 16-18 September 2013, at Ghent University, Belgium.

The concept of causality is of central importance to (the philosophy of) medicine. In medical diagnosis one infers from the presence of a set of symptoms to the possible diseases by which they may be caused. A central goal of medical research is to find the cause(s) of diseases. A central tenet of evidence-based medicine is that drugs and therapies should be tested for their causal effectiveness (and possible side-effects, etc.) on the basis of solid and reliable evidence. We invite contributions in which the relations between causality and medicine are explored. Which concept of causality best suits medical practice? What is the use of causal knowledge in medicine? What evidence can be used to infer causal relations in medicine? etc.

An abstract in PDF format (between 500 and 1000 words) should be uploaded using Easychair before 1 April 2013. Notifications of decisions will be made 15 May 2013. More information about how to submit and a link to the EasyChair page can be found here:

Christopher Boorse and Commentators: Applying the Biostatistical Theory of Health to Mental Disorder

One-Day Conference & Lecture

“Christopher Boorse and Commentators: Applying the Biostatistical Theory of Health to Mental Disorder”

Friday, 7th December, Room 405, Philosophy Department, King’s College London

Christopher Boorse is well-known for his development of the Biostatistical Theory, a naturalistic account of disorder as dysfunction. His account continues to be widely discussed, but – although it is meant to apply to both somatic and mental disorder – it has received comparatively little attention in literature on mental disorder.

This one-day conference and lecture offer the unique opportunity to see Chris person; he has not been in Europe for over thirty years. It will also give a chance to discuss whether and how his account can be extended to apply to psychiatry. The conference and lecture should be of interest to philosophers of medicine, psychiatry, science and mind, as well as to psychiatrists, medical professionals and other health-care practitioners with an interest in philosophy.

Conference Program:

10:45 – 11:15

Registration; Coffee and Tea

11:15 – 12:15

Thomas Schramme, Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Hamburg.

“Mental Disorder as Mental Dysfunction”

12:15 – 1:30


1:30 – 2:30

Elselijn Kingma, Wellcome Research Fellow, King’s College Centre for Humanities and Health/Department of Philosophy.

“Three Reasons why our Concepts of Mental Disorder and Physical Disorder Differ”

2:30 – 3:30

Rachel Cooper, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Lancaster University

“Precisifying Concepts: the Case of Mental Disorder”

3:30 – 4:00 Afternoon Tea


4:00 – 5:30

Christopher Boorse, Professor in Philosophy, University of Delaware

“Is Grief a Pathological Condition?”

This conference and lecture are organised jointly by the Department of Philosophy/Centre for Humanities and Health. Attendance is free, but please do confirm your attendance by sending an email to Julia Howse [] so we can judge numbers for catering.

2013 Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable

The Fifth Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable will be held November 20-21, 2013 in New York at Columbia University.

This two-day conference continues a series of philosophy of medicine meetings at University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005 and 2008, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in 2009 and the University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian, in 2011. We welcome papers in any area of philosophy of medicine, such as epistemology of medicine and ontological issues in medicine (but not medical ethics), from a variety of philosophical approaches. A selection of conference papers may be published. Keynote speakers will be Rita Charon and Ross Upshur.
The submission deadline has now passed. For any queries please contact the organizers at

Scientific committee: Rachel Ankeny, Alexander Bird, Alex Broadbent, Havi Carel, Fred Gifford, Harold Kincaid, Miriam Solomon, Julian Reiss, Jeremy Simon, David Teira.

Local Organizer: Jeremy Simon

International Advanced Seminar in Philosophy of Medicine

The International Advanced Seminar in Philosophy of Medicine is jointly organized by the Institute for History and Philosophy of Sciences and Techniques (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne / CNRS/ ENS), the Institute for History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine (University Johannes Gutentberg of Mainz), the European School of Molecular Medicine (in collaboration with the research group Biomedical Humanities at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan), the Center for Humanities and Health at King’s College in London and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the Huniversity of Pittsburgh.  The first meeting will be held in Paris on June 20-21-22, 2013. The main topic will be “Unity and autonomy in the philosophy of medical science”. The deadline for submission via the website of the conference ( is on March 15th, 2013.