Evidential pluralism in the social sciences

In order to establish a causal claim, one needs to establish both that the putative cause and effect are correlated and that there is a mechanism linking the former to the latter that can explain this correlation. This evidential pluralism thesis has led to some very fruitful work in the philosophy of the biomedical sciences and to suggestions for improvements to evidence-based medicine. This project will investigate whether the thesis also applies to the social sciences. Can it be used to provide foundations for ‘mixed methods research’ in the social sciences? Can it lead to improvements in evidence-based social policy?

This project is supported by the Leverhulme Trust and runs for 3 years from 1st September 2019. The investigators are Jon Williamson (PI), Yafeng Shan (RA) and Samuel D. Taylor (Lecturer).




Synthese Topical Collection
Evidential Diversity in the Social Sciences
Guest Editors: Yafeng Shan and Jon Williamson

Shan, Yafeng (2021). Beyond Mendelism and Biometry. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 89: 155–63.

Taylor, S. D. (2021). Causation and Cognition: An Epistemic Approach. Synthese.

Yafeng Shan (2020), Doing Integrated History and Philosophy of Science: A Case Study of the Origin of Genetics, Springer.

Jon Williamson: A Bayesian account of establishing, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, in press.  

Jeffrey K. Aronson, Daniel Auker-Howlett, Virginia Ghiara, Michael P. Kelly and Jon Williamson: The use of mechanistic reasoning in assessing coronavirus interventions, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 2020. . doi: 10.1111/jep.13438


Activities and talks

28-29 June 2021: Alternative approaches to Causation: Beyond difference-making and Mechanism. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

28 May 2021: Analogical Reasoning in philosophy and Science. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

13-14 May 2021: New Directions in Metaphilosophy. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

6-7 May 2021: Evidence and explanations of cognition. Organised by Sam Taylor.

4-7 March 2021: Symposioum on Evidential Pluralism and Causality in the Social Sciences, ANPOSS/ENPOSS/POSS-RT 2021 Joint Conference.

16-17 July 2020: Evidential Pluralism and the social sciences. To attend please contact Yafeng Shan

POSTPONED from 10 March 2020: Symposium on analogical reasoning. To attend please contact Yafeng Shan

8-11 December 2019. Jon Williamson: The scope of Evidential Pluralism, NZAP 2019, Auckland.

4-6 December 2019. Jon Williamson: Evidential Pluralism as foundations for mixed methods research, MMIRA 2019, Wellington.