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Philosophy of Science


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


Philosophy of science is the philosophical study of the presuppositions, concepts, methods, and output of the sciences. This course opens with a comparison of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities: it studies the ways in which these disciplines engage with their objects and the forms of knowledge that they produce. Later, the course examines key issues and problems of present-day philosophy of science. These include observation, theory, explanation, law of nature, falsification, paradigm, and revolution. The course helps students of International Studies recognize, appreciate, and assess contributions made by different scientific and academic disciplines to our understanding of a complex reality.

Course objectives

A student successfully completing this course has knowledge of and insight in the following topics:

  • Typical features of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities; elements of the historical development of these disciplines; characteristics of the methods that they pursue and the knowledge that they yield; the differences between them;

  • Key concepts, issues, and problems in present-day philosophy of science, including observation, induction, theory, explanation, law of nature, falsification, paradigm, and revolution;

  • Some modern debates in philosophy of science concerning the above concepts;

  • The contributions to philosophy of science of some important thinkers, including Karl R. Popper and Thomas S. Kuhn.

A student successfully completing this course has the skills to:

  • Give an account of the similarities and differences between scientific and academic disciplines belonging to the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities;

  • Give an account of the key concepts, issues, and problems listed above, as well as of the debates concerning them and the contributions of the important philosophers of science named above;

  • Choose and motivate views and assessments of his or her own with relation to all the above.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture every week.

Assessment method

Multiple-choice examination


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

A selection of articles and other literature items. Details will be circulated later.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable