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 Yafeng Shan (RA), Samuel D. Taylor (Lecturer), Alexandra Trofimov (Lecturer), and Jon Williamson (PI).




Yafeng Shan and Jon Williamson: Evidential Pluralism in the Social Sciences, Routledge 2023. ISBN 9780367697228

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

Focus on Evidential Pluralism, The Reasoner 15(6), 2021. including:

  • Jon Williamson: Introducing Evidential Pluralism.
  • Yafeng Shan: Evidential Pluralism in the Social Sciences.
  • Samuel Taylor: Evidential Pluralism in Cognitive Science
  • Jon Williamson: Evidential Pluralism and Explainable AI.

Yafeng Shan and Jon Williamson: Applying Evidential Pluralism to the social sciences, European Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11(4):96, 2021.   . doi: 10.1007/s13194-021-00415-z

Daniel Auker-Howlett and Jon Williamson: Vaccination uptake interventions: an EBM+ approach, Argumenta, 7(1): 79-96, 2021. . doi: 10.14275/2465-2334/202113.auk

Shan, Yafeng (2021). Philosophical Foundations of Mixed Methods Research, Philosophy Compass 17(1): e12804,  https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12804.

Taylor, S. D. (2021). Causation and Cognition: An Epistemic Approach. Synthese 199: 9133–9160.

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

Shan, Yafeng, ed. 2022. New Directions in Metaphilosophy. Metaphilosophy 53 (2-3), 2022.

Yafeng Shan, Philosophy doesn’t need a concept of progress, Metaphilosophy 53 (2–3): 176–84, 2022

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

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

Yafeng Shan Mendel on Developmental Information, In Information and the History of Philosophy, edited by Chris Meyns, 262–80. London: Routledge, 2021.

Shan, Yafeng, Ehud Lamm, and Oren Harman. 2022. “‘History Will be Kind to Me’: An Introduction to New Directions in the Historiography of Genetics.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

Shan, Yafeng. 2023. “The Historiography of Scientific Revolutions.” In Handbook of the Historiography of Science, edited by Mauro L. Condé and Marlon Salomon. Cham: Springer.

Shan, Yafeng, ed. 2022. New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. New York: Routledge.

Shan, Yafeng. 2022. “The Functional Approach: Scientific Progress as Increased Usefulness.” In New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress, edited by Yafeng Shan. New York: Routledge.

Shan, Yafeng, ed. 2022. Examining Philosophy Itself. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Activities and talks

17-19 August 2022: Symposium on Philosophy of the Social Sciences, EENPS, Tartu.

15-17 August 2022: Symposium on Mechanisms in the Cognitive and Social Sciences, GWP, Berlin.

13-15 July 2022: The Kuhn centennial conference: Thomas Kuhn and the 21st century philosophy of science. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

2-4 July 2022: Symposium on Causation and Evidence in Political Science, SPSP, Ghent.

27-28 June 2022: New perspectives on causation in the life sciences. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

31 May 2022: Symposium on Diversity of Evidence. 12-6pm, KLT2. Organised by Alexandra Trofimov and Jon Williamson.

5-6 May 2022: Mixed methods research and causal inference. Organised by Yafeng Shan.

29 March 2022: Reliability in Science and Philosophy. Organised by Sam Taylor.

2-3 March 2022: Shedding Northern Light on Causation, University of Tromso. Organised by Yafeng Shan and Svein Anders Noer Lie.

An Introduction to Evidential Pluralism, Jon Williamson (Kent)
Defending Evidential Pluralism in the Social Sciences, Yafeng Shan (Kent)
Evidence, causality and (real) mutual manifestations, Svein Anders Noer Lie (UiT)
Simultaneous Causation, Valdi Ingthorsson (Helsinki)
Two concepts of direct causation, Veli-Pekka Parkkinen (Bergen)
Applying interventionism to singular causation in the social sciences, Rosa Runhardt (Radboud)
Variaety of Evidence, Barbara Osimani (Polytechnic University of the Marche)
Roundtable Discussion

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: Symposium 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

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.