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Prof A B Broadbent

Prof A B Broadbent
Faculty of Humanities
Department of Philosophy Permanent Staff
Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities

Contact Details
B Ring 516
+27 (0) 11 559 2727

Alex Broadbent is Professor of Philosophy and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at UJ. Previously he held various research, teaching and visiting positions at Cambridge, Vienna, Athens and Harvard, before joining the University of Johannesburg in 2011. Alex is a philosopher of science with particular interests in philosophy of epidemiology, philosophy of medicine, and philosophy of law, connected by the philosophical themes of causation, explanation, and prediction. He is committed to finding philosophical problems in practical contexts, and to contributing something useful concerning them. He holds a P-rating from the National Research Foundation of South Africa (2013-2018) and is a member of the South African Young Academy of Sciences. He has published a number of articles in top international journals across three disciplines (philosophy, epidemiology, law). His first book, Philosophy of Epidemiology, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and has been translated into Korean. His second book, Philosophy for Graduate Students: Metaphysics and Epistemology, was published by Routledge in 2016. He is currently working on his third book, Philosophy of Medicine, under contract with Oxford University Press.

Alex believes that academic leadership in the contemporary university calls for academic as well as leadership qualities, and thus believes that it is both desirable and possible to be a Scholar Dean. His core belief is that, in the space created by real academic inquiry, people always enter each interaction as equals, with their status determined entirely by the merit of their contribution. Alex believes in the power of critical inquiry to free people from their backgrounds, and from their preconceptions of others, and to open new lines of thought—to literally change one’s mind. Alex believes in the power of ideas, which shape how we behave and thus shape the world. Humanities disciplines all share the thread of critical engagement with ideas, and Alex’s hope for the future of the Humanities, in this University and beyond, is that they will learn how to more effectively bring their special perspectives to bear on the important ideas of our times, wherever those ideas come from.

RECENT Publications


Broadbent, A. 2016. Philosophy for Graduate Students: Metaphysics and Epistemology. New York: Routledge.

Broadbent, A. 2013. Philosophy of Epidemiology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Under contract:

Broadbent, A. Philosophy of Medicine. Oxford University Press.

Edited volumes

Under contract:

Broadbent, A. and Stegenga, J. (eds.). Major Works in Philosophy of Medicine. Bloomsbury.

Broadbent, A. and Venkatapuram, S. (eds.). Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Public Health. Routledge.

Journal Articles

  1. Broadbent, A. In press. ‘Health as a Secondary Property.’ British Journal of Philosophy of Science.

  2. Broadbent, A., Vandenbroucke, J., and Pearce, N. 2016. ‘Formalism or Pluralism? A Reply to Commentaries on “Causality and Causal Inference in Epidemiology”.’ International Journal of Epidemiology 45(6): 1841-1851. Open access—doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw298

  3. Broadbent, A., Vandenbroucke, J., and Pearce, N. 2016. ‘Authors’ Reply to: VanderWeele et al., Chiolero, and Schooling et al. International Journal of Epidemiology 45(6): 2203-2205. Open access—doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw163

  4. Vandenbroucke, J., Broadbent, A., and Pearce, N. 2016. ‘Causality and Causal Inference in Epidemiology—the need for a pluralistic approach.’ International Journal of Epidemiology 45(6): 1776-1786. Open access—doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv341

  5. Broadbent, A. and Seung-Sik, H. 2016. ‘Tobacco and Epidemiology in Korea: old tricks, new answers?’ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 70: 527-528. [open access]

  6. Vlerick, M. and Broadbent, A. 2015. ‘Evolution and Epistemic Justification.’ Dialectica 69: 185-203.

  7. Broadbent, A. 2015. ‘Causation and Prediction in Epidemiology: A Guide to the Methodological Revolution.’ Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 54: 72-80.

  8. Fuller, J., Broadbent, A. and Flores, L.J. 2015. ‘Introduction to prediction in epidemiology and medicine.’ Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences B54: 45-48.

  9. Broadbent, A. 2015. ‘Stability as a Stable Category in Medical Epistemology.’ Angewandte Philosophie: Eine internationale Zeitschrift/Applied Philosophy: An International Journal 1: 24-37.

  10. Broadbent, A. 2015. ‘Epidemiological evidence in law: a comment on Supreme Court Decision2011Da22092.’ Epidemiology and Health 37: e2015026.

  11. Simon, J.R., Broadbent, A. and Gifford, F. 2015. ‘Beyond Bioethics: the 5th International Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable.’ Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36: 1-5.

  12. Broadbent, A. 2015. ‘Risk Relativism and physical law.’ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 69: 92-94.

  13. Broadbent, A. 2014. 'Disease as a Theoretical Concept: the Case of HPV-itis.' Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48: 250-257.

  14. Broadbent, A. 2012. ‘Causes of causes.’ Philosophical Studies 158: 457-476.

  15. Broadbent, A. 2012. ‘Philosophy and Preventive Medicine.’ Preventive Medicine 55: 575-576.

  16. Broadbent, A. 2011. ‘Epidemiological Evidence in Proof of Specific Causation.’ Legal Theory 17: 237-278.

  17. Broadbent, A. 2011. ‘Defining Neglected Disease.’ Biosocieties 6: 51-70.

  18. Broadbent, A. 2011. ‘Conceptual and methodological issues in epidemiology – An overview.’ Preventive Medicine 53: 215-216.

  19. Broadbent, A. 2011. ‘What could possibly go wrong? – A heuristic for predicting population health outcomes of interventions.’ Preventive Medicine 53: 256-259.

  20. Broadbent, A. 2009. ‘Causation and models of disease in epidemiology.’ Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40: 302–311.

  21. Broadbent, A. 2009. ‘Fact and Law in the Causal Inquiry.’ Legal Theory 15: 73–191.

  22. Broadbent, A. 2008. ‘The Difference Between Cause and Condition.’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108: 355-364.

  23. Broadbent, A. 2008. ‘For Analytic Bioethics.’ Clinical Ethics 3: 185-188.

  24. Broadbent, A. 2007. ‘Reversing the Counterfactual Analysis of Causation.’ International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15: 169­-189.

    Chapters (peer reviewed)

  1. Broadbent, A. 2017. ‘Philosophy of Epidemiology’, chapter in Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Medicine. Routledge. Pp. 248-256.

  2. Broadbent, A. 2016. ‘Epidemiology’, in Marcum J. (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Medicine. Bloomsbury. Pp. 93-112.

  3. Broadbent, A. 2016. ‘Causation’, in Freeman M. and Zeegers M. (eds.), Forensic Epidemiology: Principles and Practices. London: Elsevier. Pp. 112-130.

  4. Broadbent, A. 2013. ‘Explanation and Responsibility.’ In Kahmen, B. and Stepanians, M. (eds.), Causation and Responsibility – Critical Essays. De Gruyter.

  5. Broadbent, A. 2011. ‘Inferring causation in epidemiology: mechanisms, black boxes, and contrasts.’ Causality in the Sciences, Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011).


    Broadbent, A. ‘How Much Mortality Does Obesity Cause? Measuring Causality in Populations.’ In McClimans, L. (ed.), Measurement in Medicine: Essays in Assessment and Evaluation. In preparation.


Technical Reports

Broadbent, A. 2011. Epidemiology, Risk, and Causation: conceptual and methodological issues in public health science. Commissioned and published by the PHG Foundation on the topic of a series of workshops they funded in 2010.


Online Resources

2014 Podcast on neglected diseases, by invitation:

2012 Philosophy of Epidemiology blog


Links Profile - includes preprints and draft papers

Philosophy of Epidemiology blog

International Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable

Preventive Medicine (journal)

Page at HPS, Cambridge