Mechanisms and biomedicine

B. Clarke, F. Russo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter provides a "functionalist account" of the ways that mechanisms are sought, formulated, and used in medicine. It considers following six "episodes" to draw out some of the role(s) that mechanisms play in making sense of medicine: aspirin, high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-raising drugs; asbestos that is known to be responsible for fatal diseases; discovery of Helicobacter pylori as a cause of gastric ulcer; story of Ignaz Semmelweis; and comparison between approaches to health and disease. The chapter analyzes these episodes to draw lessons about mechanisms in medicine. It provides answer for the following question: if the mechanisms project often or usually looks to the sciences for inspiration, why is there such a mis-match between the high prominence of mechanisms in medical practice, and the much lower level of attention that medical mechanisms have received from philosophers. Finally, the chapter explores some tentative conclusions about mechanisms in medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy
EditorsS. Glennan, P. Ilari
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781138841697
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Philosophy


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