•  20
    My purpose in this paper is to show how a re-examination of Snow’s famous South London water study, widely taken to have established that cholera is water-borne, highlights some problems with current, scientific realist accounts of theory-change. When examining scientific controversies, such accounts focus disproportionately on the ‘winning’ theories and their properties, or on those of the reasoning of the scientists who proposed them. I argue that this focus is misguided and leads us to neglec…Read more
  •  68
    Against Selective Realism
    Philosophy of Science 84 (5): 996-1007. 2017.
    It has recently been suggested that realist responses to historical cases featured in pessimistic meta-inductions are not as successful as previously thought. In response, selective realists have updated the basic divide et impera strategy specifically to take such cases into account and to argue that more modern realist accounts are immune to the historical challenge. Using a case study—that of the nineteenth-century zymotic theory of disease—I argue that these updated proposals fail and that e…Read more
  • In this paper, I examine the transition from zymotic views of disease to germ views in Britain in the mid-1800s. I argue that neither realist nor anti-realist accounts of theory-change can account for this case, because both rely on a well-defined notion of theory, which, as the paper will show, is inapplicable in this instance. After outlining the zymotic theory of disease, I show that, even though it hardly had anything in common with the germ theory, it was highly successful. However, despite…Read more
  •  5
    From Zymes to Germs: Discarding the Realist/Anti-Realist Framework
    In Raphael Scholl & Tilman Sauer (eds.), The Philosophy of Historical Case Studies, Springer. pp. 265--284. 2016.
    I argue that neither realist nor anti-realist accounts of theory-change can account for the transition from zymotic views of disease to germ views. The trouble with realism is its focus on stable and continuous elements that get retained in the transition from one theory to the next; the trouble with anti-realism is its focus on the radical discontinuity between theories and their successors. I show that neither of these approaches works for the transition from zymes to germs: there is neither c…Read more
  •  22
    Structural realism beyond physics
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 59 106--114. 2016.
    The main purpose of this paper is to test structural realism against (one example from) the historical record. I begin by laying out an existing challenge to structural realism -- that of providing an example of a theory exhibiting successful structures that were abandoned -- and show that this challenge can be met by the miasma theory of disease. However, rather than concluding that this is an outright counterexample to structural realism, I use this case to show why it is that structural reali…Read more
  •  58
    My talk will be guided by the idea that there are some familiar scientific practices that are epistemically significant. I will argue that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining cases in the history of science. Specifically, I will reconstruct one particular episode in the history of medicine – John Snow's reasoning concerning the infectiousness of cholera – and offer this case as a concrete example of the sort of empirical research that needs to be done in order…Read more
  •  120
    Principles of Reasoning in Historical Epidemiology
    Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 18 (5): 968-973. 2012.
  •  181
    Epistemic Equivalence and Epistemic Incapacitation
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (2): 313-328. 2012.
    One typical realist response to the argument from underdetermination of theories by evidence is an appeal to epistemic criteria besides the empirical evidence to argue that, while scientific theories might be empirically equivalent, they are not epistemically equivalent. In this article, I spell out a new and reformulated version of the underdetermination argument that takes such criteria into account. I explain the notion of epistemic equivalence which this new argument appeals to, and argue th…Read more
  •  138
    Underdetermination, methodological practices, and realism
    Synthese 190 (17): 3731-3750. 2013.
    In this paper, I argue (i) that there are certain methodological practices that are epistemically significant, and (ii) that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining case-studies in the history of science. Analysing a particular episode from the history of medicine, I explain how this can help us resolve specific cases of underdetermination. I conclude that, while the anti-realist is (more or less legitimately) able to construct underdetermination scenarios on a ca…Read more
  •  254
    Breaking the ties: epistemic significance, bacilli, and underdetermination
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (3): 627-641. 2007.
    One premise of the underdetermination argument is that entailment of evidence is the only epistemic constraint on theory-choice. I argue that methodological rules can be epistemically significant, both with respect to observables and unobservables. Using an example from the history of medicine—Koch’s 1882 discovery of tuberculosis bacteria—I argue that even anti-realists ought to accept that these rules can break the tie between theories that are allegedly underdetermined. I then distinguish two…Read more
  •  148
    This document collects discussion and commentary on issues raised in the workshop by its participants. Contributors are: Greg Frost-Arnold, David Harker, P. D. Magnus, John Manchak, John D. Norton, J. Brian Pitts, Kyle Stanford, Dana Tulodziecki
  •  67
    Shattering the Myth of Semmelweis
    Philosophy of Science 80 (5): 1065-1075. 2013.
    The case of Semmelweis has been well known since Hempel. More recently, it has been revived by Peter Lipton, Donald Gillies, Alexander Bird, Alex Broadbent, and Raphael Scholl. While these accounts differ on what exactly the case of Semmelweis shows, they all agree that Semmelweis was an excellent reasoner. This widespread agreement has also given rise to a puzzle: why Semmelweis’s views were rejected for so long. I aim to dissolve both this puzzle and the standard view of Semmelweis by showing …Read more
  •  103
    A case study in explanatory power: John Snow’s conclusions about the pathology and transmission of cholera
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (3): 306-316. 2011.
    In the mid-1800s, there was much debate about the origin or 'exciting cause' of cholera. Despite much confusion surrounding the disease, the so-called miasma theory emerged as the prevalent account about cholera's cause. Going against this mainstream view, the British physician John Snow inferred several things about cholera's origin and pathology that no one else inferred. Without observing the vibrio cholerae, however,-data unavailable to Snow and his colleagues-, there was no way of settling …Read more