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Explanatory pluralism in the medical sciences: theory and practice

Leen De Vreese (UGent) , Erik Weber (UGent) and Jeroen Van Bouwel (UGent)
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Abstract
Explanatory pluralism is the view that the best form and level of explanation depends on the kind of question one seeks to answer by the explanation, and that in order to answer all questions in the best way possible, we need more than one form and level of explanation. In the first part of this article, we argue that explanatory pluralism holds for the medical sciences, at least in theory. However, in the second part of the article we show that medical research and practice is actually not fully and truly explanatory pluralist yet. Although the literature demonstrates a slowly growing interest in non-reductive explanations in medicine, the dominant approach in medicine is still methodologically reductionist. This implies that non-reductive explanations often do not get the attention they deserve. We argue that the field of medicine could benefit greatly by reconsidering its reductive tendencies and becoming fully and truly explanatory pluralist. Nonetheless, trying to achieve the right balance in the search for and application of reductive and non-reductive explanations will in any case be a difficult exercise.
Keywords
BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL MODEL, SUSCEPTIBILITY LOCUS, LUNG-CANCER, PUBLIC-HEALTH, Biochemicalization, Geneticization, Medical sciences, Holism, Reductionism, Explanatory pluralism, GENES, FUTURE, PROSPECTS, 20TH-CENTURY, DISEASE, EPIDEMIOLOGY

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Chicago
De Vreese, Leen, Erik Weber, and Jeroen Van Bouwel. 2010. “Explanatory Pluralism in the Medical Sciences: Theory and Practice.” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 31 (5): 371–390.
APA
De Vreese, L., Weber, E., & Van Bouwel, J. (2010). Explanatory pluralism in the medical sciences: theory and practice. THEORETICAL MEDICINE AND BIOETHICS, 31(5), 371–390.
Vancouver
1.
De Vreese L, Weber E, Van Bouwel J. Explanatory pluralism in the medical sciences: theory and practice. THEORETICAL MEDICINE AND BIOETHICS. 2010;31(5):371–90.
MLA
De Vreese, Leen, Erik Weber, and Jeroen Van Bouwel. “Explanatory Pluralism in the Medical Sciences: Theory and Practice.” THEORETICAL MEDICINE AND BIOETHICS 31.5 (2010): 371–390. Print.
@article{1054981,
  abstract     = {Explanatory pluralism is the view that the best form and level of explanation depends on the kind of question one seeks to answer by the explanation, and that in order to answer all questions in the best way possible, we need more than one form and level of explanation. In the first part of this article, we argue that explanatory pluralism holds for the medical sciences, at least in theory. However, in the second part of the article we show that medical research and practice is actually not fully and truly explanatory pluralist yet. Although the literature demonstrates a slowly growing interest in non-reductive explanations in medicine, the dominant approach in medicine is still methodologically reductionist. This implies that non-reductive explanations often do not get the attention they deserve. We argue that the field of medicine could benefit greatly by reconsidering its reductive tendencies and becoming fully and truly explanatory pluralist. Nonetheless, trying to achieve the right balance in the search for and application of reductive and non-reductive explanations will in any case be a difficult exercise.},
  author       = {De Vreese, Leen and Weber, Erik and Van Bouwel, Jeroen},
  issn         = {1386-7415},
  journal      = {THEORETICAL MEDICINE AND BIOETHICS},
  keyword      = {BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL MODEL,SUSCEPTIBILITY LOCUS,LUNG-CANCER,PUBLIC-HEALTH,Biochemicalization,Geneticization,Medical sciences,Holism,Reductionism,Explanatory pluralism,GENES,FUTURE,PROSPECTS,20TH-CENTURY,DISEASE,EPIDEMIOLOGY},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {5},
  pages        = {371--390},
  title        = {Explanatory pluralism in the medical sciences: theory and practice},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11017-010-9156-7},
  volume       = {31},
  year         = {2010},
}

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