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Abduction and Evidence in Medical Diagnosis

Lecture by Atocha Aliseda (UNAM, Mexico)


This talk concerns the relationship between evidence and hypotheses under the framework of abductive reasoning within the context of medical diagnosis in neurology.

When a medical doctor is faced with her patient´s symptoms and signs, she has to resort -- among many other things -- to her existing knowledge of pathologies, in order to choose the best fit as an diagnostic syndromic hypothesis explaining her patient’s condition. In this case we say she is performing a straightforward novelty abduction in which the supporting evidence is found among those symptoms and signs the patient reports.

In the case of neurology, there are two additional diagnostic kinds complementing the syndromic one, namely topographic and etiologic. While the former aims at establishing a correlation between a physiological alteration and an anatomical location, the latter relies on evidence drawn from physicians knowledge and from a bibliographical review about the nosological entities in view.

As it turns out, the way in which evidence is searched for as well as weighted in favour or against a certain hypothesis, is quite different in each of these diagnostic types. In this talk, I will analyze the dynamics of diagnostics through a clinical neurological case, and show how medical practice provides us with an excellent setting to highlight some of the challenges the relationship between evidence and hypotheses faces.

Atocha Aliseda

Atocha Aliseda holds a Bachelor degree in Mathematics from UNAM (Mexico) and a PhD in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems by the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University.

She has visited the Department of Philosophy of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands (2000, 2001, 2002), as well as the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Philosophy of Science of the University of Seville in Spain (2002, 2007, 2011, 2012).

She has published and edited books and articles on Logic and Philosophy of Science. Her research topics include abductive reasoning and the logics of scientific discovery. She is currently working on the application of formal models to medical diagnosis.

She is full professor at the Institute for Philosophical Research at UNAM and a National Researcher (level II). In 2003 she received two awards: the "National University Award for Young Academics" in the area of Teaching in the Humanities (UNAM) and the Research Award for Young Scientists of the Mexican Sciences Academy in the area of Research in the Humanities.

When & where?
Tuesday, April 10, 2014, 3 to 5 p.m.
Faculty of Philosophy,  Room Gamma
Last modified:19 December 2019 3.28 p.m.