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There are two Philosophy and Medicine Colloquia coming up. 

Induction and Necessary Connections in Medical Research

Marius Backmann, London School of Economics

21 January 2020 – 17:30-19:00

Bush House (S) 2.02, Strand Campus


Some necessitarians have claimed that they could justify induction by introducing necessary connections. By analysing the reasoning in randomised clinical trials (RCTs), I argue that this view does not accurately represent scientific practice.

The basic model of necessitarian solutions to the problem of induction is as follows: First we infer from the fact that all Fs have so far been Gs via an inference to the best explanation (IBE) that there is a necessary connection between F-ness and G-ness. We then deductively infer from this necessary connection that all Fs are Gs.

Nancy Cartwright and Eileen Munro offer an idealised reconstruction of randomized clinical trials broadly along these lines. First, we infer from evidence that a treatment has a ‘stable capacity’, i.e. a modal dispositional property, to produce an outcome. Second, we deductively infer the efficacy ofthe treatment outside the test environment from the existence of this stable capacity. Cartwright and Munro argue that RCTs alone are no basis to support these sorts of inferences, and hence do not deserve the status of a gold standard for medical research.

Against this, I argue we should not try to give a deductive reconstruction of RCTs. We ampliatively infer the causal relevance of the treatment in the sample from the fact that the desired outcome is more prevalent in the test group than in the control group. The further inference that the treatment will be causally relevant in the population will also always be ampliative, because we cannot possibly have the necessary information to make it deductive. Moreover, the necessitarian analysis of inductive practice is inapplicable where there are no modal properties that could be inferred to, as is, e.g., the case in meta-studies.

Mental Health Without Wellbeing

Anna Alexandrova, University of Cambridge

28 January 2020 – 17:00-18:30

Greenwood Classroom, Greenwood Theatre Building, Guy’s Campus

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link


What is it to be mentally healthy? In the ongoing movement to promote mental health, to reduce stigma and to establish parity between mental and physical health, there is a clear enthusiasm about this concept and a recognition of its value in human life. However, it is often unclear what mental health means in all these efforts and whether there is a single concept underlying them. Sometimes the initiatives for the sake of mental health are aimed just at reducing mental illness, thus implicitly identifying mental health with the absence of diagnosable psychiatric disease. More ambitiously, there are high-profile proposals to adopt a positive definition, identifying mental health with psychic or even overall wellbeing. We argue against both: a definition of mental health as mere absence of mental illness is too thin, too undemanding, and too closely linked to psychiatric value judgments, while the definition in terms of wellbeing is too demanding and potentially oppressive. As a compromise we sketch out a middle position. On this view mental health is a primary good, that is the psychological preconditions of pursuing any conception of the good life, including wellbeing, without being identical to wellbeing.

!EDITthis post previously stated mistakenly that both colloquia would happen in February. Please note the new dates!