Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Philosophy and Methodology of Medicine (1-3 June 2021)

Idea & Motivation

The claims of medicine have been supported by a wide variety of different methods, ranging from randomized controlled trials to expert judgement and mechanism-based reasoning. Miriam Solomon has therefore aptly characterized medicine in terms of a developing, untidy, methodological pluralism. But can philosophers help with this development? In recent years, philosophers of science have become increasingly interested in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods employed in medicine. Some have defended the methodological superiority of randomized controlled trials, or at least meta-analyses of such trials. Others have challenged this superiority by on the one hand stressing the weaknesses of such methods in terms of their internal or external validity, and on the other hand emphasising the strengths of alternative methods, including methods involving expert judgement and mechanistic evidence.

This online conference will bring together philosophers of science and medical methodologists in an attempt to make progress towards resolving these debates concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods employed in medicine.

We welcome submissions of abstracts of no longer than one page (not including references) for thirty-minute talks on topics in the philosophy and methodology of medicine, including but not limited to:

  • Causal inference in medicine
  • Foundational issues in statistics in medicine
  • Bias in medical inference
  • Medical epistemology
  • Multi-agent medical epistemology
  • Mechanisms in medicine
  • Analogy and extrapolation in medicine
  • Expert judgement in medicine.

The conference will be preceded by a Summer School to introduce graduate students and others to the main themes in the debates.


Jürgen Landes (MCMP)

Michael Wilde (Kent)

Invited Speakers

Call for Abstracts

Submission Instructions:

Upload an abstract (pdf) at

Length of abstract: Up to 1 page of text, references can go on Page 2.

Deadline: 03.03.2021.

The Easychair submission form also asks you to fill a field called ''abstract''. Just type ''N/A'' or similar.

Expected notifications: End of March 2021


The conference will be held online.


In order to register for the conference, please send an email to with the subject line: Registration: Philosophy and Methodology of Medicine.
A registration covers all three days.
Registered participants are not required to attend all talks.


Elena Rocca (NMBU): School Lecture: Dispositions and causal evidence in medicine


Elena Rocca (NMBU): Conference Talk: Mechanistic knowledge and clinical reasoning - with S. P. Gonzalez


Federica Russo (Amsterdam): School Lecture: The 'lifeworld’ of health and disease and the design of public health interventions


Federica Russo (Amsterdam): Conference Talk: The epistemic values at work in epidemiology and public health


David Teira (UNED): School Lecture: Clean Data on a Cholera Vaccine: Jaime Ferrán's Submissions to the Prix Bréant - with C. Uzcanga

Historians of statistics have mostly focused on the techniques for data analysis that allowed the assessment of medical treatments, but not so much on the organization of the very data about treatment effects and its epistemic standing. Our paper is about the value of raw data in articulating clinical judgment. We analyse Jaime Ferrán’s three submissions to the Prix Bréant awarded by the French Academy of Sciences to incentivize research on cholera. Ferrán, a Spanish independent physician, claimed to have discovered a vaccine in 1884. He tried on thousands of patients during the cholera outburst in Valencia the following year. His trial sparked a controversy in Spain and abroad on the vaccine’s efficacy. Several interpreters have accused the Academy of bias for not recognizing Ferrán’s success with the Bréant. Drawing on the archival records of the award, we suggest that Ferrán failed instead to provide evidence formatted in a way that conformed to the emerging standards for data presentation at the Academy.

David Teira (UNED): Conference Talk: The Trade-Off Between Impartiality and Freedom in the 21st Century Cures Act - with N. Tempini and D. Fraile

Randomized controlled trials test the safety and efficacy of new drugs with a number of default debiasing devices. Controls such as randomization and blinding prevent the participants from manipulating the trial according to their interest. In this regard, controls guarantee a degree of impartiality in the test. But the trial participants often do not like controls, arguing that they impose a paternalist constraint on their legitimate preferences. The 21st Century Cures Act, passed by the US Congress in 2016, invites the Food and Drug Administration to use some alternative testing methods for regulatory purposes, in which the participants’ preferences are somehow incorporated. In this context, we discuss in a historical perspective the trade-off between trial impartiality and the participants’ freedom in regulatory tests. We argue that the only way out of this trade-off is considering which methods actually improve upon the performance of conventional trials in keeping dangerous or ineffective compounds out of pharmaceutical markets.