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Stephen John

Hatton Lecturer in the Philosophy of Public Health

I am a Senior Lecturer, with research and teaching interests in a variety of topics at the intersection of philosophy of science, applied ethics, social epistemology, and political philosophy.

My main research to date has clustered around a series of concepts which raise both ethical and epistemological challenges: certainty, communication, chance and categorisation. I am particularly interested in how these concepts are used in policy-making, and have explored case studies ranging from Lysenkoist genetics to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to contemporary alcohol policy. In my current research, I am particularly interested in debates over the early detection and prevention of cancer. For some initial thoughts on this topic, please see here

From 2015 to 2018, I co-directed with Anna Alexandrova a project on the "Limits of the Numerical" at CRASSH. I am also affiliated with the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, with Cambridge University's Public Health Strategic Research Network, and with the Early Detection Programme at the Cambridge Cancer Centre.

For more details, please see my webpage at academia.edu or my google scholar page

Selected publications

“Science, Truth and Dictatorship: wishful thinking or wishful speaking?" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2019)

“Scientific Deceit” Synthese (2019)

"Epistemic trust and the ethics of science communication: against transparency, openness, sincerity and honesty" Social Epistemology 2018 32(2) 72-87

"Should we punish responsible drinkers? Prevention, paternalism and categorisation in public health policy" Public Health Ethics 2018 11(1)

“The social epistemology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” Journal of Applied Philosophy 2017 34(2): 157-171

“Inductive risk and the contexts of communication” Synthese 2015 192(1): 79-96

'The Example of the IPCC Does Not Vindicate the Value-Free Ideal: A Reply to Gregor Betz', European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (2015): 1–13

'Efficiency, Responsibility and Disability: Philosophical Lessons from the Savings Argument for Pre-Natal Diagnosis', Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (2015): 3–22

'Risk, Contractualism and Rose's "Prevention Paradox"', Social Theory and Practice 40 (2014): 28–50

'Patient Preference Predictors, Apt Categorisation and Respect for Autonomy', Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 39 (2014): 169–177

'Cancer Screening, Risk Stratification and the Ethics of Apt Categorisation: A Case Study', Ethics in Public Health and Health Policy, edited by Daniel Strech, Irene Hirschberg and Georg Marckmann (Dordrecht: Springer, 2013): 141–152

'Why the Prevention Paradox is a Paradox, and Why We Should Solve It: A Philosophical View', Preventive Medicine 53 (2011): 250–252

'Expert Testimony and Epistemological Free-Riding: The MMR Controversy', The Philosophical Quarterly 61 (2011): 496–517

'Security, Knowledge and Well-Being', Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (2011): 68–91

'In Defence of Bad Science and Irrational Policies: An Alternative Account of the Precautionary Principle', Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2010): 3–18

'Why "Health" is Not a Central Category for Public Health Policy', Journal of Applied Philosophy 26 (2009): 129–143

'Is There an Obligation to Participate in Medical Research?', The Limits of Consent, edited by Oonagh Corrigan et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 115–132

Recent book reviews

'Inference to the Best Epidemiology', essay review of Philosophy of Epidemiology by Alex Broadbent, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

'No Genes, Please, We're British', essay review of Genomes and What to Make of Them by John Dupré and Barry Barnes, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2012): 828–830

'Mind the Gap', essay review of Science, Policy and the Value Free Ideal by Heather Douglas, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (2012): 218–220