Issues in the Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Medicine
Instructor: Gabriele Contessa
Office Hours: Wednesday, 10:35am–11:25am or by appointment
Zoom Link to Virtual Office: See Admin section in Brightspace
Zoom Link to Virtual Classroom: See Admin section in Brightspace
Course Description: Selected topic(s) in the philosophy of science, such as its relationship to values, or in the philosophy of a particular science (such as philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of the social sciences).
Topic Description: In this course, we will explore a number of questions in the philosophy of medicine, such as ‘What is health?,’ ‘What counts as a disease?,’ ‘What should count as evidence in medicine?,’ ‘What is the status of psychiatry?,’ ‘What is wrong with health inequalities?’
Prerequisite(s): PHIL 2301 or permission of the department.
The textbook for this course is Jacob Stegenga, Care and Cure: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Medicine, University of Chicago Press, 2018), which is available for purchase from the campus bookstore.
All other readings will be accessible through Brightspace.
Standing in a course is determined by the course instructor subject to the approval of the Faculty Dean. This means that grades submitted by the instructor may be subject to revision. No grades are final until they have been approved by the Dean.
VI. Course Organization and Course Policies
Overview. This course will be run like a seminar. In a seminar, the role of the instructor is to lead and facilitate the discussion among students (instead of lecturing them). Seminars encourage students to adopt a more active approach to learning, to engage more directly with the issues discussed, and to take responsibility for their own learning. This approach is supported by empirical studies that suggest that, while lecturing might give students a false sense of understanding, actively engaged students actually learn more (see, e.g., (Deslaurier et al 2019) and (Carpenter et al 2020)). However, the success of a seminar partly depends on everyone doing their part. This includes, among other things, doing the readings, submitting thoughtful and relevant discussion questions, and making constructive contributions to the discussion in class.
Discussion Questions. All students are expected to submit one (and only one!) discussion question per week. Discussion questions must be about one of the readings for the week and they have to be posted on Brightspace no later than Tuesday at noon each week. Regardless of whether your discussion question is specific (i.e. a question that refers to a specific passage) or general questions (i.e. a question about the reading in general), they need to make clear and explicit reference to the relevant reading. If your question refers to a specific passage, please give a clear reference and please provide a full quotation of the passage in your post. Generic questions (i.e. questions that do not clearly and explicitly relate to the reading but only to the general topic of the reading(s)) are not acceptable and will not receive full credit. The test for a generic discussion question is: ‘Could someone have written that discussion question only by reading the title, abstract, introduction, and conclusion of the reading but without reading the whole reading?’. If the answer to that question is ‘Yes’, then your question counts as generic. A typical example of a generic discussion question is a question that is answered by the author(s) in the reading but does not consider that answer. Discussion questions should be no longer than 100 words (excluding any quotations from the reading). Each week I will choose a set number of discussion questions among the ones submitted. Those questions will sometimes form the basis of our class/group discussions for that week. The chosen discussion questions will typically exemplify the following features. They are clear and succinct, they display a genuine and thoughtful engagement with the reading(s), and they are likely to form the basis of an interesting discussion in class. Chosen discussion questions will receive 50% extra credit for that question. Alternatively, students can choose to submit a clarification question as their discussion question for that week. Clarification questions aim to clarify some aspect of the reading (e.g., an argument given by the author or a concept used by them). The chosen clarification questions will typically exemplify the following features. They are clear and succinct, they are about an important aspect of the reading, they are about an aspect of the reading that is likely to have puzzled other students as well. The chosen clarification questions will receive 25% extra credit.
Please note that, barring extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness or family emergency), failing to submit a discussion question will result in a zero and that discussion questions that are late, go over the word limit, contain multiple questions, or are generic (see above) will not receive full credit.
If exceptional circumstances (e.g., illness or family emergency) prevent you from submitting a discussion question, please notify me by email as soon as possible.
Attendance and Participation. Attendance and participation are crucial to the success of a seminar-style course. You are strongly encouraged to contribute to the discussions. Your participation grade will be based on both the quantity and the quality of your contributions to the discussion during that week. 50% of the Attendance and Participation grade will be based on attendance, Attendance will be tracked using Poll Everywhere and Zoom. Correct answers to Poll Everywhere questions will contribute an additional 25% of the Attendance and Participation grade for the week.
If extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness or family emergency) prevent you from attending a meeting, please notify me by email as soon as possible.
Polling Software. Poll Everywhere will be used to track attendance and ask questions about the readings. You can respond to in-class polls using a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, or any other device with an internet connection. Alternatively, you can submit your answers through SMS (charges from your provider may apply). You should be registered automatically for the course. Please make sure to always use your Cmail e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) when signing into Poll Everywhere. Active polls for the course can be found at PollEv.com/contessa.
Response Papers (RPs). RPs are supposed to engage critically with one of the readings for the course. You can choose any of the readings that have been covered so far in the course (insofar as you haven’t discussed it already in a previous response paper). RPs are expected to have (i) a clearly stated thesis and (ii) a clearly stated argument to support that thesis. The basic format for a RP is to argue that one of the main theses in one of the readings is false or that one of the main arguments offered in one of the readings is unsound (i.e. the argument does not support its conclusion either because one of its premises is false or because the argument is invalid). In either case, you are expected to describe clearly and accurately the thesis/argument you are arguing against and to state clearly your thesis and your argument in support of it. Your RP is supposed to engage with the arguments provided by the author of the reading. The word limit for RPs is 250 words (including any direct quotes, but excluding references). RPs should be submitted through Brightspace in .pdf, .doc, or .docx format. RPs are graded anonymously, so no identifying information should be included in yout submission (including in the name of the file).
Please note that, barring extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness, family emergency), failing to submit a response paper will result in 0% on that paper. If extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness or family emergency) prevent you from submitting a response paper on time, please notify me by email as soon as possible. Please also note that late response papers are subject to a 5-point penalty for every day they are late and that longer response papers will be subject to a 1-point penalty for every 25 words over the word limit.
Academic Integrity. You are responsible for ensuring that you understand the nature of academic offenses (such as plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration), as defined in the Undergraduate Calendar, and to avoid both committing them and aiding or abetting academic offenses perpetrated by other students. Please be aware that I am bound to report any suspected academic offense directly to the Office of the Dean.
The University Senate defines plagiarism as “presenting, whether intentionally or not, the ideas, expression of ideas or work of others as one’s own.” This can include: reproducing or paraphrasing portions of someone else’s published or unpublished material, regardless of the source, and presenting these as one’s own without proper citation or reference to the original source; submitting a take-home examination, essay, laboratory report or other assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else; using ideas or direct, verbatim quotations, or paraphrased material, concepts, or ideas without appropriate acknowledgment in any academic assignment; using another’s data or research findings; failing to acknowledge sources through the use of proper citations when using another’s works and/or failing to use quotation marks; handing in "substantially the same piece of work for academic credit more than once without prior written permission of the course instructor in which the submission occurs." Plagiarism is a serious offence that cannot be resolved directly by the course’s instructor. The Associate Dean of the Faculty conducts a rigorous investigation, including an interview with the student, when an instructor suspects a piece of work has been plagiarized. Penalties are not trivial. They can include a final grade of "F" for the course.
Copyright. Carleton University is committed to compliance in all copyright matters. Noncompliance is a violation of the Canadian Copyright Act. In addition to any actions that might be taken by any copyright owner or its licensing agent, the University will take steps against any breach of this policy. In Canada, copyright for a work is given automatically to the creator of the work. The work does not need to be marked or declared as copyrighted in order to be copyrighted. The majority of works in Canada are copyrighted. It is important for students to understand and respect copyright. Copyright determines your usage rights for a particular work, which includes textbooks, web pages, videos and images, both electronic and hard copy. Students may not photocopy entire or major portions of books or other works, even if it is only for their personal use. Fair dealing makes some allowances for copying small portions of works. See Carleton's Fair Dealing Policy for more information. If journal articles or portions of works are available through the library, either as hard copies or electronically, students may make a single copy for their personal use. Students may not distribute copies of works that are under copyright. For more information, please see the Carleton's Fair Dealing Policy and the library's copyright website: www.library.carleton.ca/copyright.
VII. Course Calendar
Sep 13/Sep 15
C&C: Ch 1 ‘Health’
Boorse ‘Health as a Theoretical Concept’
Alexandrova ‘Can the Science of Well-Being Be Objective?’
Sep 20/Sep 22
C&C: Ch 2 ‘Disease’
Lemoine ‘Defining Disease Beyond Conceptual Analysis’’
Sep 27/Sep 29
C&C: Ch 4 ‘Causation and Kinds’
Broadbent ‘Causation and Models of Disease in Epidemiology’
Lange ‘The End of Diseases’
Oct 4/Oct 6
C&C: Ch 6 ‘Controversial Diseases’
Holton & Berridge ‘Addiction Between Compulsion and Choice’
Pickard ‘Psychopathology and the Ability to Do Otherwise’
Oct 11/Oct 13
C&C: Ch 7 ‘Evidence in Medicine’
Worrall ‘What Evidence in Evidence-Based Medicine?’
Stegenga ‘Is Meta-Analysis the Platinum Standard’
Oct 18/Oct 20
C&C: Ch 8 ‘Objectivity and the Social Structure of Science’
Douglas ‘Inductive Risk and Values in Science’
De Melo-Martin and Intemann ‘Feminist Resources for Biomedical Research’
Oct 25/Oct 27
Fall Break (No Classes!)
Nov 1/Nov 3
C&C: Ch 9 ‘Inference’
Urbach ‘Randomization and the Design of Experiments’
McClimans ‘The Role of Measurement in Establishing Evidence’
C&C: Ch 10 ‘Effectiveness, Skepticism, and Alternatives’
Holman ‘Why Most Sugar Pills Are Not Placebos’
Stegenga ‘Effectiveness of Medical Interventions’
Nov 15/Nov 17
C&C: Ch 11 ‘Diagnosis and Screening’
Plutynski ‘Ethical Issues in Cancer Screening and Prevention’
Kennedy ‘Evaluating Diagnostic Tests’
Nov 22/Nov 24
C&C: Ch 12 ‘Psychiatry: Care or Control?’
Tabb ‘Psychiatric Progress and the Assumption of Diagnostic Discrimination’
Tsou ‘The Importance of History for the Philosophy of Psychiatry: The Case of the DSM and Psychiatric Classification’
Nov 29/Dec 1
C&C: Ch 13 ‘Policy’
Brown ‘Politics, Method, and Medical Research’
Biddle ‘Can Patents Prohibit Research?’
C&C: Ch 14 ‘Public Health’
Hausman ‘What’s Wrong With Health Inequalities?’
John ‘Why the Prevention Paradox Is a Paradox and Why We Should Solve It’
Please note that the course calendar is provisional and subject to change.
Please check this Course Outline regularly for updates.
Department of Philosophy and Carleton University Policies (Fall/Winter 2023-24)
Please follow your professor’s instructions on how assignments will be handled electronically. There will be NO hard copies
placed in the essay box this coming year.
Standing in a course is determined by the course instructor subject to the approval of the Faculty Dean. This means that
grades submitted by the instructor may be subject to revision. No grades are final until they have been approved by the Dean.
Deferrals for Term Work:
If students are unable to complete term work because of illness or other circumstances beyond their control, they should
contact their course instructor no later than three working days of the due date. Normally, any deferred term work will be
completed by the last day of the term. Term work cannot be deferred by the Registrar.
Deferrals for Final Exams:
Students are expected to be available for the duration of a course including the examination period. Occasionally, students
encounter circumstances beyond their control where they may not be able to write a final examination or submit a take-
home examination. Examples of this would be a serious illness or the death of a family member. If you miss a final
examination and/or fail to submit a take-home examination by the due date, you may apply for a deferral no later than
three working days after the original due date (as per the University Regulations in Section 4.3 of the Undergraduate
Calendar). Visit the Registrar’s Office for further information.
It is the responsibility of each student to understand the meaning of ‘plagiarism’ as defined in the Undergraduate or
Graduate Calendars, and to avoid both committing plagiarism and aiding or abetting plagiarism by other students. (Section
10.1 of the Undergraduate Calendar Academic Regulations)
You may need special arrangements to meet your academic obligations during the term:
Pregnancy or religious obligation: write to your professor with any requests for academic accommodation during the
first two weeks of class, or as soon as possible after the need for accommodation is known to exist. For more details visit
the EDC website.
Academic accommodations for students with disabilities: The Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities (PMC)
provides services to students with Learning Disabilities (LD), psychiatric/mental health disabilities, Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), chronic medical conditions, and impairments in
mobility, hearing, and vision. If you have a disability requiring academic accommodations in this course, please contact
PMC at 613-520-6608 or email@example.com for a formal evaluation. If you are already registered with the PMC, contact
your PMC coordinator to send your Letter of Accommodation at the beginning of the term, and no later than two weeks
before the first in-class test or exam requiring accommodation. After requesting accommodation from PMC, meet with
your professor to ensure accommodation arrangements are made.
Survivors of Sexual Violence: As a community, Carleton University is committed to maintaining a positive learning,
working and living environment where sexual violence will not be tolerated, and where survivors are supported through
academic accommodations as per Carleton’s Sexual Violence Policy.
Accommodation for Student Activities: Carleton University recognizes the substantial benefits, both to the individual
student and for the university, that result from a student participating in activities beyond the classroom experience.
Reasonable accommodation must be provided to students who compete or perform at the national or international
level. Please contact your instructor with any requests for academic accommodation during the first two weeks of class,
or as soon as possible after the need for accommodation is known to exist.
Sept. 6 Classes start.
Sept. 19 Last day for registration and course changes for fall term and fall/winter (two-term) courses.
Sept. 30 Last day for entire fee adjustment when withdrawing from fall term or two-term courses. Withdrawals after this date will result in a permanent notation of WDN on the official transcript.
Oct. 9 Statutory holiday. University closed.
Oct. 23-27 Fall Break – no classes.
Nov. 24 Last day for summative tests or examinations, or formative tests or examinations totaling more than 15% of the final grade, before the official examination period.
Dec. 8 Last day of fall term classes. Classes follow a Monday schedule. Last day for academic withdrawal from fall
term courses. Last day for handing in term work and the last day that can be specified by a course instructor
as a due date for term work for a fall term course.
Dec. 10-22 Final examinations for fall term courses and mid-term examinations in two-term courses. Examinations are normally held all seven days of the week.
Dec. 22 All take-home examinations are due.
Jan. 8 Classes begin.
Jan. 19 Last day for registration and course changes in the winter term.
Jan. 31 Last day for a full fee adjustment when withdrawing from winter term courses or from the winter portion of
two-term courses. Withdrawals after this date will result in a permanent notation of WDN on the official
Feb. 19 Statutory holiday. University closed.
Feb. 19-23 Winter Break – no classes.
Mar. 15 Last day for academic withdrawal from fall/winter and winter courses.
Mar. 27 Last day for summative tests or examinations, or formative tests or examinations totaling more than 15% of the final grade, in winter term or fall/winter courses before the official examination period.
Mar. 29 Statutory holiday. University closed.
Apr. 10 Last day of two-term and winter term classes. Classes follow a Friday schedule. Last day for handing in term
work and the last day that can be specified by a course instructor as a due date for two-term and for winter
Apr. 11-12 No classes or examinations take place.
Apr. 13-25 Final examinations for winter term and two-term courses. Examinations are normally held all seven days of
Apr. 25 All take-home examinations are due.
Department of Philosophy:
Academic Advising Centre: