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Philosophy of Science

Vak 2011-2012


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 some of the most important presuppositions of current conceptions of (social) science. Besides, attention will be paid to the practice and ethics of social scientific research. During the lectures, we will discuss great debates on the general status of science in general and the peculiarities of social science research in particular. During the course, a (limited) number of classic works in this field will be closely read and discussed. The objective of the course is to give the student a good understanding of some of the most important positions and debates in the philosophy of (social) science and the ability to reflect critically on individual research projects amidst competing traditions of thinking on social science.

Methods of Instruction

Seminar sessions


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


Final goal 2 Academic skills
Final goal 3 Skills in social scientific research

Schedule Tuesday 7 feb t/m 27/3 from 10-13 hrs , room SA-05