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Philosophy of Science



All scientific research is conducted against a background of a conception of science: what it is and what it should be like. Frequently, however, this conception remains implicit – but this does not mean that it is incapable of guiding the inquiry. This course discusses and analyses the most important presuppositions of current conceptions of (social) science.
Attention will be paid to the great debates on the general status of science: both classic and contemporary authors such as Weber, Popper, Kuhn, Elster, and others will be discussed. In particular, the peculiarities of social science research will be addressed. Issues in the explanation of action and causation will be discussed, but also epistemological assumptions, the interpretation of sources and data, and logical or conceptual analysis. The objective of this course is to give the student an idea of how to locate the individual research project in a tradition of thinking on social science and to grasp its ontological and epistemological presuppositions as well as its methodological and logical requirements.

Methods of Instruction

Seminar sessions and presentations.


Max Weber, The Methodology of Social Sciences, ed. Shils & Finch, part I and II (Transaction, 2011; or in German: Wissenschaftslehre)
Max Weber (1958), Science as a Vocation, Deadalus 87(1), 111-134 (or in German: Wissenschaft als Beruf)
Alfred J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (Penguin, 2011).
Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, ch. 1-3, 10-11, 16 (Routledge Classics, 2002)
Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy (Routledge Classics, 2007)
Charles Taylor, Philosophy and the Human Sciences, hoofdstuk 1-6 (Cambridge University Press, 1985)
Jon Elster, Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, ch. 1-3, 9-14, 18-conclusion (Cambridge University Press, 2007)


Written assignments


7 Feb t/m 27 March, 10.00-13.00 hrs, room SA05