nl en

Philosophy of Natural Sciences: Science and Society in History


Admission requirements

Course for third-year BA students with basic background in philosophy and/or history of science and with interest in science as a social practice.

Toehoorders / à la carte-studenten hebben alleen toegang tot deze cursus met toestemming van de docent.


In the not so distant past, philosophers, historians and sociologists of science understood society as something external to science. Nowadays, it is much harder to deny that culture, politics and economics permeate and profoundly shape the scientific enterprise up to its most “intimate” core procedures of validating truth claims and establishing facts. Scientific communities, networks and institutions loom particularly large in contemporary accounts of how science works. In this seminar, we will explore this “paradigm shift” in the studies of science by examining the key classical and contemporary contributions to understanding both science in society and society in science.

The readings chosen for this course combine theoretical discussions with exploration of specific historical cases. In particular, we will survey various perspectives on the 16-17th century science, the age of “the scientific revolution” and “the republic of scholars”; explore the social and political contexts in which “big science” of the 20th century emerged in various Western countries and in the Soviet Union; and examine the role of the colonial context in the history of Western anthropology. The course will pay particular attention to the thorny issue of how to account for the practices of validating truth claims within the scientific community and establishing the authority and prestige of science and scientists in the broader public domain. Students will be encouraged to adopt a generous attitude to defining “science,” i.e. to consider both natural and social sciences within the same framework. We will conclude by exploring the changing role of universities and funding agencies in shaping the development of scientific research and in defining the place of science and scientists in contemporary society.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


Wednesday 15:00 – 18:00

See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2011-2012 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject)
See Timetables Philosophy 2011-2012 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

Seminar (lecture and discussion)

Assessment method

  • Active class participation

  • Two short analytical papers

  • One oral presentation

  • Final research essay (3,000-4,000 words)



Reading list

  • Golinski, J., Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, with a new Preface (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

  • The complete list of seminar readings will be available on Blackboard by September.


Please register for this course on uSis.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Aanmelden à la carte en contractonderwijs

Aanmelden voor Contractonderwijs via:
Aanmelden voor Toehoorderschap via:
Na aanmelding ook inschrijven voor cursus en tentamen(s) via uSis

Contact information

Dr. M.Kupovykh
More information


Specialisaties (BA Wijsbegeerte): Geschiedenis van de filosofie , Theoretische filosofie