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When Causal Specificity Does Not Matter (Much): Insights from HIV Treatment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Philosophers of biology generally agree that causal specificity tracks biological importance: more specific causes are more important. I argue that this correlation does not hold in much research aimed at biomedical intervention. Applying James Woodward’s analysis of causal specificity to the development and design of HIV treatments, I show that drugs that are less causally specific produce better therapeutic outcomes and are more highly valued. Thus, I conclude that the importance of biological causes does not track their specificity but instead varies depending on the biological practice we consider and the goals of that practice.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank Jim Woodward, Mike Dietrich, Ken Schaffner, and David Colaço as well as the audience at PSA 2018 for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

References

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