Applying Evidential Pluralism to the Social Sciences

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (4):1-27 (2021)
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Evidential Pluralism maintains that in order to establish a causal claim one normally needs to establish the existence of an appropriate conditional correlation and the existence of an appropriate mechanism complex, so when assessing a causal claim one ought to consider both association studies and mechanistic studies. Hitherto, Evidential Pluralism has been applied to medicine, leading to the EBM+ programme, which recommends that evidence-based medicine should systematically evaluate mechanistic studies alongside clinical studies. This paper argues that Evidential Pluralism can also be fruitfully applied to the social sciences. In particular, Evidential Pluralism provides (i) a new approach to evidence-based policy; (ii) an account of the evidential relationships in more theoretical research; and (iii) new philosophical motivation for mixed methods research. The application of Evidential Pluralism to the social sciences is also defended against two objections.

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Author Profiles

Yafeng Shan
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Jon Williamson
University of Kent

References found in this work

Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The direction of time.Hans Reichenbach - 1956 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Maria Reichenbach.
Causality and explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1998 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What is a mechanism? Thinking about mechanisms across the sciences.Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.

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