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Marco Nathan (University of Denver, Dpt Philosophy, USA), Philosophical Reflections on Diagnosis and Prognosis

2 May 2017 | 14 h 30 min - 15 h 30 min

Marco Nathan (University of Denver, USA)

Philosophical Reflections on Diagnosis and Prognosis


The goal of this talk is to discuss a prominent—albeit neglected—class of scientific inferences, ‘counterfactual explanations,’ which take into account not only what is the case, but also what could (or could not) have happened to an individual patient or control group.  In particular, I will focus on the how this kind of counter-to-the-facts reasoning functions in the context of molecular medicine—the cutting edge (but rapidly developing) attempt to study biological conditions and treat diseases from a molecular perspective. I begin by suggesting that counterfactual thinking play a key role in the diagnosis and prognosis of genetic diseases and other serious pathological conditions. In the second part of the talk, I argue that traditional semantic analyses of counterfactual explanation are guilty of conflating two scientific goals—truth and explanation—that should be kept distinct. I sketch and defend an alternative ‘placeholder’ analysis, according to which counterfactual statements stand in for predictions and explanations, in practice or in principle.

For audio file of the talk, please contact Thomas Pradeu.



2 May 2017
14 h 30 min - 15 h 30 min
Event Categories:
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Philosophy & Biology Seminar (Thomas Pradeu)


Bordeaux Pellegrin Hospital, Rheumatology Service, 12th floor
Place Amélie Raba Léon
Bordeaux, 33000 France
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