Systematicity, knowledge, and bias. How systematicity made clinical medicine a science

Alexander Bird*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
314 Downloads (Pure)


This paper shows that the history of clinical medicine in the eighteenth century supports Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s thesis that there is a correlation between science and systematicity. For example, James Jurin’s assessment of the safety of variolation as a protection against smallpox adopted a systematic approach to the assessment of interventions in order to eliminate sources of cognitive bias that would compromise inquiry. Clinical medicine thereby became a science. I use this confirming instance to motivate a broader hypothesis, that systematicity is a distinctive feature of science because systematicity is required by processes of knowledge generation that go beyond our everyday cognitive capacities, and these processes are required to produce knowledge of the kinds that science aims at.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-879
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Aim of science
  • Bias
  • Clinical medicine
  • Nature of science
  • Systematicity
  • Variolation


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  • Scientific Knowledge

    Bird, A. J.


    Project: Research

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