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Philosophy of Science


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


Anyone who works in International Studies must be able to recognize, assess, and combine contributions made by different scientific and academic disciplines to our understanding of a complex reality. To do this, one must have an overview of the outlook and methods of the social sciences and humanities, the ways in which these disciplines engage with their objects, and the forms of knowledge that they produce.

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, 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


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your tutor in advance. Being absent at more than one of the tutorial sessions will result in a lowering of your tutorial grade (30% of the end grade) with 1 point for each session missed after the first session. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the tutor.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 24 hours

  • Attending tutorials: 8 hours

  • Assessment hours (exams): 4 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature (approximately 7 pages / hour): 64 hours

  • Completing assignments, preparing for classes and exams: 40 hours

Assessment method


  • Final Exam: Written examination with open questions and multiple choice questions.


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 30%
Final Exam 70%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade and Final Exam grade.

  • The Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the Final Exam is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2018 – 2019.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

A selection of articles and other literature items. Details will be circulated during the course.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Tutorials and Lectures is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. J.W. McAllister

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.