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Sciences and Humanities


Admission requirements

Bachelor degree (completed)


Universities belong to the oldest still existing organisations in the world. For over 800 years they have been centres of knowledge production, education, and reflection. Modern universities exhibit a high degree of specialisation within the different subject areas, usually organised in a handful faculties.

In an influential lecture from 1959, the British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow has pointed at the differences in "culture" between disciplines that fall under the sciences and those that fall under the humanities. Today we might add the social sciences as a separate category and distinguish between alpha, beta, and gamma.

In this course we identify some of the "cultural differences" between the different fields in terms of their methods, relationships to society, and epistemological values, i.e. their attitude towards knowledge-finding and "the truth." On the other hand, we investigate what is shared between fields and how the forces of multiple disciplines can be joined to see even further.

A wide range of thinkers from philosophy and the history of science will be discussed, ranging from Descartes to Rorty, Popper to Feyerabend, Copernicus to Newton, and Kant to Wittgenstein––to name just a few. Also, attention will be paid to different forms of knowledge-gathering and -sharing, using short stories from Kafka and Borges as well as the film The Matrix.

Course objectives

Students are able to:

  • reflect on the alpha, beta, and gamma division in academia in terms of methods, relationship to society, and epistemological value;

  • describe various developments in the history of science and their implications, most notably the Copernican Revolution;

  • define the field of epistemology and characterise different positions in historical as well as contemporary debates;

  • formulate their own position in epistemological debates and support this with relevant arguments;

  • reflect on alternative ways of knowledge-production and -sharing, such as through (science-)fiction.


Check MyTimetable (manual) and use your ULCN account to login. Please note that (last-minute) changes in the schedule are communicated in the course's Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, Seminar

Assessment method

Assessment is based on three elements: 1) weekly homework assignments, 2) a written exam, and 3) a small end project that can take the form of an essay, fictional work, small documentary, podcast, computer programme, or physical installation.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the elements mentioned above (homework 20%, exam 40%, small end project 40%). To pass the course, the grade for the exam must be 5.5 or higher.

Soon after the announcement of the written exam result and as early as possible before the resit, the exam will be given to the participants for inspection and a discussion of the exam can take place on a student's request.

Reading list

Full reference list will be disseminated through Blackboard/Brightspace. Articles and book chapters that cannot be found online are available in the class library in Snellius 413.

In addition, all students are expected to buy a copy of the following book, as we read it almost cover-to-cover:

A.F. Chalmers. 2013. What is that thing called science? 4th Ed. Queensland, Queensland UP.


  • You have to enrol for classes and exams (including retakes) in uSis.

  • Elective, external and exchange students (other than Media Technology students) need to contact the programme's coordinator due to limited capacity.


Contact the lecturer(s) for course specific questions and the programme's coordinator Barbara Visscher-van Grinsven for questions regarding the programme, admission and/or registration.