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. Idealization 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 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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Sciences(all)