A return to reasonableness and virtue in medical epistemology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The foundationalist and anti-foundationalist conceptions of medical knowledge have been at loggerheads for decades. Evidence-based medicine (EBM), the most prominent form of foundationalism, has attained wide appeal and acceptance among authorities. It proposes that evidence is the “base” upon which all clinical decisions should be grounded. Others have countered that the clinical encounter is far too complex for a singular base, and the different factors that impose on a clinical decision cannot be neatly and permanently ranked a priori. By its very nature, this anti-foundationalist outlook has resisted simplistic description, which is perhaps the reason it has not been as popular. In this paper, I provide a survey of the foundationalist and anti-foundationalist debate in medicine and defend anti-foundationalism on the basis that foundationalist approaches are anachronistic, and in the case of evidence-based medicine ultimately confuses inputs (evidence) for consideration in making a judgement with outputs (conclusions). I further propose that virtue ethics is inseparable from anti-foundationalism and conclude that the current infatuation with EBM implies something rather troubling; that physicians cannot be trusted to utilize their extensive training and skills to make reasonable decisions in the best interests of their patients. If this is in fact true, it suggests a crisis in virtue amongst medical professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-451
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • epistemology
  • evidence-based medicine
  • practical reasoning virtue


Dive into the research topics of 'A return to reasonableness and virtue in medical epistemology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this