Philosophy and Medicine

Philosophers of medicine often claim that their arguments are relevant to medicine, [1,2] and on the surface their claims are plausible. Among other things, analytic philosophers are well placed to:

The potential for philosophy to have a practical benefit can be traced to the Ancient philosophers. Stoicism, for example, was designed to help us live more happily not merely defend arguments about what it meant to live happily. In Thoreau’s words: “To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school… it is to solve some of the problems of life not only theoretically, but practically.” In spite of this potential to have a practical influence on medical practice, there is little evidence that medical scientists or practitioners pay any heed to philosophers of medicine. Our growing Philosophy and Medicine Group addresses this gap by exploring problems that are both philosophically interesting and are relevant to medical scientists and practitioners.


  1. Members of our group have designed and teach a course on the History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Healthcare that is designed for both medical researchers/practitioners interested in learning some philosophy, and philosophers interested in engaging with medical research. Some of our students have succeeded at crossing the inter-disciplinary gap. [7]
  2. Howick’s research was also submitted as part of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  3. Will be holding a conference on philosophical issues that are relevant to medicine in 2016.

For information about the Philosophy and Medicine Group please contact Dr. Jeremy Howick: jeremy.howick[at]


  1. Worrall J (2002) What Evidence in Evidence-Based Medicine? Philosophy of Science 69: S316-S330.
  2. Howick J (2011) The Philosophy of Evidence-Based Medicine. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  3. Fulford KWM, Peile E, Carroll H (2012) Essential values-based practice : clinical stories linking science with people. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Howick J (2011) Exposing the Vanities – and a Qualified Defence – of Mechanistic evidence in Clinical Decision-Making. Phillosophy of Science, forthcoming.
  5. Clarke B, Gillies D, Illari P, Russo F, Williamson J (2014) Mechanisms and the Evidence Hierarchy. Topoi 33: 339-360.
  6. Howick J (2009) Questioning the methodologic superiority of ‘placebo’ over ‘active’ controlled trials. Am J Bioeth 9: 34-48.
  7. Every-Palmer S, Howick J (2014) How evidence-based medicine is failing due to biased trials and selective publication. J Eval Clin Pract.