PHIL 12 Lecture 10: Mill’s Methods and the RCT

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Kerry Mc Kenzie

PHIL 12 – Lecture 10 – Mill’s Methods and the RCT Assignment due Monday Read chapters 17, 18, 19 Mill’s Methods • Five different methods for inferring causes from a set of phenomena o Method of agreement o Method of difference o Joint method of agreement and difference o Method of concomitant variation o Method of residues ▪ We won’t study this one The Method of Agreement • Ex: Sickness among people on a plane who ate omelette • Ex: Sickness among those who ate oysters • Ex: At least 50 cases of ‘big-head disease’ after babies drank nutritionally defective milk powder • Line out all the potential factors/antecedent circumstances, find out what everything has in common, and that common thing is the cause o Casual argument • Certain plausibility and reflects certain inferential practices that we do engage in • Not foolproof, not mechanical o Features of inductive argument • Ex: I want to locate the cause of strange headaches, sickness, etc., that affects me every morning o List all the things I drank the night before ▪ Different spirits each night along with coke • Method of Agreement would say that the coke was the culprit • Indefinite number of antecedent circumstances, can have more than one thing in common • We need to know what is relevant, to sense what relevant type of cause might be at work • Ex: A remote community receives a shot of a new flu vaccine. Nobody gets the flu o Would it be safe to infer that the vaccine is effective at preventing the flu? ▪ Maybe the flu doesn’t go there ▪ It’s a remote community ▪ In order to infer it, you need to have a control group of people who didn’t receive the vaccine and see if they also do not get the flu o What would be a better method? ▪ Only immunize a subset of them ▪ If some people do develop the flu who have been vaccinated, then maybe it doesn’t work/vice versa The Method of Difference • Ex: Of two twin siblings in a remote community, one eats the flu shot and the other doesn’t. The one who doesn’t get the shot gets the flu, and not the other one • In an instance in which the circumstance occurs and one that it does not occur have everything in common except one thing, that one thing is the cause of the phenomenon • Ex: Of a couple who eat the same food for the starter and the main, only the one who also ate the desert got sick • Ex: Of a pair of twins, only the one exposed to an educational intervention did well on the SAT • Ex: Of a pair of cloned mice, only the one exposed to caffeine displayed high levels of anxiety • Method is better than the method of agreement as it gets closer to the idea of causes as difference-makers o Ex: Hangover example • Limitations present in the method of agreement are still present in this method o Need for prior judgements of relevance/prior idea of putative cause ▪ May not be obvious • Ex: Handling of animals o Animal being tested in the experimental group has been handled more, and this may be contributing to the effect o Male mice act differently when handled by male handlers than female handlers • Two situations will be the same in relevant respects only relative to some level of description o Ex: The couple who got sick at dinner; maybe one of them likes ketchup with their meal, and the other doesn’t • We need to be able to
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