Talk: Philosophers on Drugs

23/03/2017 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Malet Place Engineering Building (to be confirmed)
2 Malet Pl
Camden Town, London WC1E 7
Charlie Norell


Speaker: Bennett Holman (right)


Title: Philosophers on Drugs


Date and time: 23nd March, 17:00 – 18:30


Location: 1.02 Malet Place Engineering Building, UCL (to be confirmed)



There are some philosophical questions that can be answered without attention to the social context in which evidence is produced and distributed. Abstracting away from social context is an excellent way to ignore messy details and lay bare the underlying structure of the limits of inference. Idealisation is entirely appropriate when one is essentially asking: In the best of all possible worlds, what am I entitled to infer? Yet, philosophers’ concerns often go beyond this domain. As an example I examine the debate on mechanistic evidence (EBM+) and then reevaluate a canonical case study in this debate. I show that for the assessment of actual evidence, produced in a world that is far from ideal, omission of the social aspects of medical epistemology (e.g. commercial drivers of medical research) leads philosophers to draw the wrong lessons from cases they take as paradigmatic cases for their views. I close by arguing that social epistemology provides an avenue to incorporate these complications and provides the necessary framework to understand medical evidence.


Short bio:

Bennett is an Assistant Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Underwood International College at Yonsei University (Seoul, South Korea). Before turning to philosophy, he studied Biopsychology and Cognitive Science (B.A.) at the University of Michigan and Developmental and Clinical Psychology (M.A.) at York University.  Bennett earned his PhD the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, where his dissertation explored the effects of industry funding on medical research. Bennett recently organized the Medical Knowledge in a Social World Conference which focused on the intersection of medical and social epistemology.


Bennett is interested in developing the intersection between medical and social epistemology.  His current project is focused on articulating how scientific epistemology must be altered in areas of science that are heavily influenced by industry funding.  Specifically, in areas such as medical (especially pharmaceutical) research: How should we evaluate and interpret evidence given that it is not produced as a good-faith effort by a community of truth-seekers?  How can including the social dimension into epistemology bring to light problems that are obscured by focusing on an isolated knower confronting a fixed set of data?  Finally, what are the ethical implications of the new role that scientific evidence is playing in medical decision making? Bennett’s work brings the tools of history, philosophy, statistics, and game-theory to bear on this question.  Though the argument is general, he is particularly interested in mental health and philosophy of mind.

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