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Wetenschapsfilosofie (Den Haag)



This course explores some of the central debates in the philosophy of social science. As we will see, these debates are both old (they go all the way back to the 17th century) and new (we will be looking at texts that were published as recently as 2013). The perspective that we will adopt throughout our seven lectures is, for the most part, a general one. This is to say that we will ask broad questions, like: What is (social) science? What is a scientific prediction? What are objectivity and neutrality, and are they scientific values? But we will also think about how these questions inform the domain and the discipline of public administration. This class follows up on the Foundations of Public Administration (FPA) course taught during your second year. While FPA concentrated on the specific object of public administration, our objective will be to ask more general questions about what true and sound knowledge is and how social science is possible in the first place. Read in tandem, both courses should thus offer you a clear picture of what it means to do public administration and whether its claim to be a science can be defended.

Course objectives

  • Students should become familiar with the philosophy of social science, the main debates in the discipline and the main approaches to the philosophy of social science.

  • Students should acquire a close understanding of key debates and concepts relevant to the study of the philosophy of the social sciences.

  • Students should acquire the analytical skills that will allow them to understand, summarize and convey the main arguments in the literature, and approach them with a critical eye.

  • Students should be able to articulate the ways in which the epistemological questions about the social sciences matter practically.


On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

  • All lectures, readings, official communications, and exams will be in English; seminars (workgroup meetings) will be in Dutch;

  • There are 7 lectures of 2 hours each (2 lectures every 2 weeks – to be confirmed)

  • There are 7 seminar meetings of 2 hours each (2 seminar meetings every 2 weeks alternating with the lectures – to be confirmed)

NB: attendance at seminars is mandatory and will be recorded for all regular PA bachelor students Absence will be registered. Whoever is absent in two or more seminar meetings will be excluded from the course, including the final exam and the paper. Only in the case of serious personal circumstances will deviation from this rule be considered and only when students have 1) notified the lecturer immediately and prior to the work group session and 2) have notified the study advisor immediately and prior to the work group session of the reasons for missing a class.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course (number of EC x 28 hours), for a course of 5 EC is 140 hours, for 10 EC 280.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars (eg 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours)

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature (as a possible criterion approx. 7 pages per hour with deviations up and down depending on the material to be studied) (if applicable) time for completing assignments, whether in preparation at the college

  • (If applicable) time to write a paper (including reading / research)

  • Do you teach a course in BA1? Then please look at Appendix 3 to see how many CONTACT HOURS you should realize.

See Syllabus.

Assessment method

1 paper assignment (critical review) 40% of the final grade
1 written exam for 60% of the final grade

The grade of both exams has to be 5.5 or higher
Compensation is not possible.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and earned a mark between 3 and 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.
For dates and times, please see course syllabus and roster online.


Yes, Blackboard is going to be used and will be available from the beginning of the course.

Reading list

  • Doormalen, H., De Regt, H., Schouten, M. 2007. Exploring Humans. Philosophy for the Social Sciences. A Historical Introduction. Amsterdam: Boom (see the required chapters in the syllabus);

  • Separate articles (download via the Leiden library and sfx). See the syllabus for an overview.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Dr. Andrei Poama []