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Research Seminar Philosophy of Natural Sciences and Psychology


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisations Philosophy of Natural Science and Philosophy of Psychology.

Students must complete the mandatory research seminar in their first year.


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. 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

Is the world nothing but matter pushing matter in a void? Are humans nothing but machines for the survival of genes? Is the mind nothing but the brain? Is all science reducible to physics? These and other questions will be discussed in this seminar on reductionism and the unity of knowledge. Core readings will include E.O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), to be complemented with recent work on the metaphysical status of psychology, biology, or the social sciences, depending on participants’ interests.

Course objectives

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

  • key issues in metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of psychology concerning reductionism and its critics;

  • recent discussions on the metaphysics of psychology, biology, and the social sciences.

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.


  • 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:

  • course readings

  • peer review and discussion

  • paper submissions and feedback

Reading list

  • A reader with selected literature will be maid available via Blackboard.


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. J.J.M. Sleutels