Evidence, Causation, and Argumentation

A project funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Workshops Grants Scheme)

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SKR

 

 

 

 

PROJECT WEBSITE

Main team: Carlo Martini, Frank Zenker, Rani Lill Anjum.

 

The Trinity of Policy-Making: Evidence, Causation and Argumentation

Background

Science-based policy-making rests on three pillars that correspond to interlocking phases of the policy-making process. The first pillar is the gathering of facts and evidence, which by themselves would be useless without the second pillar: i.e., the search for causal relations between inputs and outputs. It cannot suffice to know the facts, we also need to understand them in terms of useful relational laws or regularities, which we can be employed to influence other facts, so that a policy may successfully intervene on the existent causal structure. That could be the end of the story, were it not for the fact that these two pillars are insufficient to support a policy if the arguments used in these first two phases aren’t both objectively strong and subjectively persuasive. At its core, the goal of the TRINITY project is to study the subjective evidential aspects of the three processes described above. After all, underlying the rather dry description of how fact-gathering and model-development work is the fact that science constitutes a deeply human enterprise, where experts, with their personal judgments and biases (good ones, as well as bad ones), ultimately set the rules of the game, despite all theoretical and methodological constraints on knowledge and action. With a few notable exceptions, the current state-of-the-art in evidence-based policy-making tends to underappreciate the subjective, reason-based and argumentative component of evidence-based science, also because the focal concept of evidence has remained disciplinary rather than interdisciplinary. The TRINITY project will try to redress this focus and explore the issue of evidence in relation to expertise and argumentation with a series of six workshops and workgroup meetings. 

Goals

The goal of this project is to explore the notion of evidence in relation to its subjective components, expertise and argumentation, from an interdisciplinary perspective. A series of workshops will invite both scientists with philosophical interests as well as philosophers of science with an interest in evidence-based policy making, which will bring together different perspectives, both theoretical and practical, to explore the notion of evidence as a three place relation. The research questions addressed in the course of this workshop-series are:

  • Under what conditions can the evidential relation best be thought of as a two-place relation, and when must it be conceived of as a three-place relation that also includes the arguments which connect evidence with the claims thus supported?
  • What is the exact role of expertise and argumentative reasoning for the evidential relation; e.g., can arguments be in any sense constitutive also of evidence itself, rather than only “channeling” the evidence onto the claim?
  • Which notions of causality are normally presupposed in the contexts where evidence-based policy is conceived and deployed, and how do they affect the pragmatic aspects of explanation and the type of evidence generated by our research methods?
  • Which conception of the evidential relation is most fruitful for science as well as for evidence- based policy-making outside philosophical domains; e.g., in political science, economics, medical sciences and policy studies?