Week 9: Medical Explanation and Treatment

Some Medical Treatments

Vaccination: smallpox, polio, pertussis, etc.

Antibiotics: penicillin and successors.

Painkillers: opium, aspirin, cox-2 inhibitors.

Anti-depressants: imipramine, Prozac.

Some Philosophical Issues


1. What is a disease?

2. What is a treatment for a disease?

3. What is an explanation of a disease? What role do mechanisms play?


1. How can researchers determine the cause of a disease?

2. How can we know that a treatment works?


1. What are the moral responsibilities of medical researchers?

2. What are the moral responsibilities of pharmaceutical companies?

Discussion Questions for Week 10

  1. How are the Olivieri and Healy cases similar and different?
  2. Are the values of universities at odds with the values of businesses?
  3. Why do conflicts of interest arise in biomedical research?
  4. What ethical lessons can be learned from the Olivieri and Healy cases?
  5. How do epistemology and ethics intersect in biomedical research?
  6. Should industry support for university research be eliminated?
  7. Are there better ways of dealing with conflicts of interest?

Student Symposia

I. Nov.23: Life and death: Mikhael, Toombs, Bullen, Carriere, Isenberg.

II. Nov. 23: Consciousness. Christelis, Menken, Osterberg, Stumpf.

III. Nov. 30: Psychological explanation: Carvalho, Clements, Finn, Lockhart, Moore.

IV. Nov. 30: Illness: Grupp, Heckbert, Honeyford, Oliver, Poproski.

Each presentation should be no more than 8 minutes, allowing 2 minutes for questions. Each symposium will be followed by 10 minutes of general discussion. The presentations should outline the central issues of your topic and your general arguments and conclusions.


Life, Mind, and Disease

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Nov. 8, 2004