Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

 

KISSing in the Time of COVID-19: Some Lessons for Model Choice [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Till Grüne-Yanoff
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of science

I present and analyze the case of COVID-19 modeling at the Public Health Agency of Sweden (FoHM) between February 2020 and May 2021. The analysis casts the case as a decision problem: mod­elers choose from a strategically prepared menu that model which they have reasons to believe will best serve their current purpose. Specifically, I argue that the model choice at FoHM concerned a trade-off between model-target similarity and model simplicity. Five reasons for choosing to engage in such a trade-off are discussed: lack of information, avoiding overfitting, avoiding fuzzy…

Modeling Pandemic: Proximate and Ultimate Causes [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Federico Boem
Topics: Ecology, Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

In the understanding and prediction of a pandemic phenomenon, epidemiology is obviously the dedicated discipline. However, epidemiological models look at what we might call the proximate causes of the pandemic. On the other hand, the ultimate causes, those of an ecological, evolutionary, and socio-economic nature, are often too simplified or reduced to “minor” variables in epidemiological models. In this article, in dealing with a pandemic, we want to support the need to extend the study and design of responses to the ultimate causes and the disciplines that investigate them, with…

Vaccination Uptake Interventions: An EBM+ Approach [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Daniel Auker-Howlett, Jon Williamson
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, barriers to vaccination uptake are heterogeneous and vary according to the local context. We argue that a more systematic consideration of local social and behavioural mechanisms could improve the development, assessment and refinement of vaccination uptake interventions. The EBM+ approach to evidence appraisal, which is a development of a recent line of work on the epistemology of causality, provides a means to evaluate mechanistic studies and their role in assessing the effectiveness of an intervention. We argue that an EBM+ methodology offers several potential…

The Strange Numbers of Covid-19 [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Annibale Biggeri, Andrea Saltelli
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

Never as with the present pandemics, numbers and the attendant activities of measuring and modelling have taken centre-stage. Yet these numbers, often delivered by academicians and media alike with extraordinary precision, rely on a rich repertoire of assumptions, including forms of bias, that can significantly skew both the numbers per se and the trust we repose in them. We discuss the issue in relation to a particular case relative to the numbers on excess mortality during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. We conclude with some considerations…

The Immunity Capital [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Paolo Vineis, Andrea Saltelli
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

This paper is inspired by a thesis on “immune capital” by Kathryn Olivarius. We suggest that the biological capital, which immunity capital is part of, should be considered as an additional component of the life-course experience of individuals, together with the traditional Bourdieu’s social, economic and cultural capitals that drive their lives. Building upon this concept, we consider the relationships between science, society and policy-making in the course of the pandemic. We suggest that we need to ‘reframe problems so that their ethical dimensions are brought to light’ (Jasanoff), with…

Making Best Use of the Available Evidence: Mechanistic Evidence and the Management of the Covid-19 Pandemic [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Virginia Ghiara
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

In this paper, I argue that evidence of biological and socio-behavioural mechanisms can contribute to the management of Covid-19. I discuss two examples that show how scientists are using different forms of evidence, among which mechanistic evidence, to answer questions about the efficacy of vaccines against Covid-19 and the effectiveness of vaccination interventions in different contexts. In the first example I claim that, due to the fast pace of the pandemic, mechanistic reasoning and evidence of biological mechanisms play an important role in the study of vaccines’ efficacy and the…

Monitoring the Safety of Medicines and Vaccines in Times of Pandemic: Practical, Conceptual, and Ethical Challenges in Pharmacovigilance [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Elena Rocca, Birgitta Grundmark
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

In this paper, we analyse some of the challenges that pharmacovigilance, the science of detecting and assessing possible adverse reactions from medical interventions, is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we consider the issue of increased uncertainty of the evidence and the issue of dealing with an unprecedented amount of data. After presenting the technical advances implemented in response to these two challenges, we offer some conceptual reflections around such practical changes. We argue that the COVID-19 emergency represents a chance to push forward critical thinking in the field…

The Source of Modality: Introduction [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 14 • Author/s: Giacomo Giannini, Joaquim Giannotti
Topics: Epistemology, Introduction, Metaphysics, Modal Logic, Ontology, Theoretical philosophy

Modal Normativism and De Re Modality [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 14 • Author/s: Tom Donaldson, Jennifer Wang
Topics: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Modal Logic, Ontology

In the middle of the last century, it was common to explain the notion of necessity in linguistic terms. A necessary truth, it was said, is a sentence whose truth is guaranteed by linguistic rules. Quine famously argued that, on this view, de re modal claims do not make sense. “Porcupettes are porcupines” is necessarily true, but it would be a mistake to say of a particular porcupette that it is necessarily a porcupine, or that it is possibly purple. Linguistic theories of necessity fell out of favour with the…

Necessity First [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 14 • Author/s: Alastair Wilson
Topics: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Modal Logic, Ontology

My topic in this paper is the relationships of metaphysical priority which might hold between the different alethic modal statuses—necessity, contingency, possibility and impossibility. In particular, I am interested in exploring the view that the necessity of necessities is ungrounded while the contingency of contingencies is grounded—a scenario I call ‘necessity first’. I will explicate and scrutinize the contrast between necessity first and its ‘contingency first’ contrary, and then compare both views with ‘multimodal’ and ‘amodal’ alternatives, drawing on David Lewis’s modal realism and Barbara Vetter’s potentialism as example cases.…
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