Evidence and its Evaluation - PHIL6220

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


A controversy is currently raging in philosophy about the nature of evidence. Recent work in epistemology and the philosophy of science suggests new answers to questions such as: What is evidence? What is it to have evidence? Why do beliefs need to be guided by evidence? At the same time, there is a vigorous debate about the methods of evidence-based medicine and evidence-based policy making. Many practitioners regard these methods as fundamentally misguided, while others view them as key to progress in medicine and beyond. This module will bring these two important topics together and show how one line of current research in philosophy is informing the debate about evidence-based methods and vice versa.

In particular, this module will provide an introduction to the methods of evidence-based practice, including the various types of comparative clinical study, and the evidence hierarchy. It will involve applying recent insights from epistemology and the philosophy of science on the theory of evidence to critically appraise the motivation behind this conception of evidence-based practice.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40


Also available to Level 6 students under code PL623

Method of assessment

Essay (3,000 words) – 80%
Seminar Performance – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative reading List:

J. Howick (2011) The Philosophy of Evidence-Based Medicine, BMJ Books.
D.A. Gillies (2000). Philosophical Theories of Probability, London: Routledge.
Causality and causal reasoning: Russo and Illari (2014). Causality: Philosophical Theory Meets Scientific Practice, Oxford: OUP.
T. Williamson (2000) Knowledge and Its Limits, Oxford: OUP.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module, Level 5 students will be able to:

Understand some of the major controversies in the philosophy of science and epistemology concerning the theory of evidence and its evaluation;
Engage critically with some of the central philosophical theories of evidence, through their study of the relevant arguments in favour of the theories;
Demonstrate their understanding of the proposed solutions to the issues relating to philosophical theories of evidence, through their study of relevant arguments;
Demonstrate the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of major texts in philosophy of science and epistemology concerning the theory of evidence.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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