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Research Seminar History and Philosophy of the Sciences


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Programme in Philosophy 60 EC.

This Research Seminar is mandatory for students who have chosen for the track History and Philosophy of the Sciences, and must be completed in their first semester.


Characteristics of the research seminar

The research seminar is a mandatory part of the MA programme. In this intensive seminar students will hone their skills necessary for writing a successful MA thesis so they are well prepared for writing their thesis in the following semester. In particular, the research seminar pays attention to topics such as formulating relevant research questions, composing research plans, and efficient writing. Students should enroll in the research seminar that belongs to the track in which the MA thesis will be written. The instructor of the research seminar will also the be the staff member who is responsible for making sure that the process of thesis writing remains on track.

Subject description

The theme of this research seminar is knowledge, assertion and potentiality. The first part of the seminar will deal with the distinction between potentiality and actuality, and its application to the concept of knowledge. Modern epistemology explains knowledge as a form of belief. It is presupposed here that knowledge is a state of the mind, but what is a state of the mind: is it a potentiality? And what would be its corresponding actualisation? We will take our departure in classical texts from Aristotle and Ryle. When we read Aristotle, Prof. F.A.J. de Haas will join the seminar.

The second part of the seminar takes up the topic of belief. Now that we have seen the possible explanations of what a mental state is, we investigate the relation between belief and the act of assertion or judgement. We will try to formulate a new interpretation of Frege’s assertion sign (Urteilsstrich), and we will evaluate recent publications on the notion of assertion by Brandom and others.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • basic philosophical notions and distinctions in theoretical philosophy, such as the distinction actuality/potentiality, and the notions assertion, knowledge, belief, judgement, truth, and proposition, and is able to relate these concepts to issues in the philosophy of mind, logic, semantics, speech act theory, and epistemology.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • present this knowledge in written form (essay);

  • formulate a philosophically relevant question;

  • formulate a research topic that reflects both knowledge and understanding of key discussions and methods relevant to the field;

  • formulate a research plan that is feasible within the time available for its completion;

  • write a coherent argumentative text within limited time.


See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetables MA Philosophy 60 EC/120 EC.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required for taking the exam.

Course Load

Total course (10 ECTS credits x 28 hours): 280 hours
Attending (14 weeks x 3 hours): 42 hours
Time for studying the mandatory literature: 90 hours
Time for completing weekly assignments: 90 hours
Research plan: 10 hours
Writing midterm paper: 15 hours
Comments: 8 hours
Writing final paper: 25 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (30% of the final grade)

  • Detailed research plan (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Midterm paper (30% of the final grade)

  • Comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Expanded final paper, based on research plan, midterm paper and received comments (40% of the final grade)

One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. Any student who did not take the first examinations (assignments, midterm paper and final paper) cannot take the resit.

Deadlines research seminar Fall semester:

  • 15-11-2014: detailed research plan

  • 01-12-2014: midterm paper

  • 08-12-2014: comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student

  • 26-01-2015: expanded final paper

Deadlines research seminar Spring semester:

  • 10-04-2015: detailed research plan

  • 24-04-2015: midterm paper

  • 01-05-2015: comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student

  • 26-06-2015: expanded final paper


Blackboard will be used for posting course information, announcements, and further communication.

Reading list

  • Aristotle, De Anima, chapters 4 and 5, 415a14 – 418a7. We will use the translation by D.W. Hamlyn, Clarendon Press, 1993, and the one by H. Seidl, Über die Seele, Felix Meiner, 1995.

  • Anthony Kenny, Aquinas on Mind, Routledge, 1993, chapter 4.

  • Anthony Kenny, The Metaphysics of Mind, Clarendon Press, 1989, chapter 5.

  • Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, Hutchinson, 1949, chapter 2.

  • Timothy Williamson, Knowledge and its Limits, Oxford University Press, 2000, Introduction and chapter 1.

  • L.J. Cohen, An Essay on Belief and Acceptance, Clarendon Press, 1992, chapters 1, 3 & 4.

  • Robert Brandom, ‘Asserting’, Nous, 17, 1983, 637-50.

  • G. Frege, Begriffsschrift, Louis Nebert Verlag, 1879, § 1- 4.

  • G. Frege, ‘Über Sinn und Bedeutung’, Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, 100, 1892, 25-50.

  • G. Frege, ‘Der Gedanke’, Beiträge zur Philosophie des deutschen Idealismus, 2, 1918-19, 58-77.

  • Mark Textor, ‘Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth’, Mind, 119, 2010, 615-55.

  • Nicholas Smith, ‘Frege’s Judgement Stroke’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 78, 2000, 153-175.

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1922.

  • Hans-Johann Glock, ‘Judgement and Truth in the Early Wittgenstein’ in: M. Textor (ed.), Judgement and Truth in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology, Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, 242-70.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable for courses in the column under the heading “Act.nbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.S. van der Schaar