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Philosophy of Science / 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

  1. 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 (ontology, methodology, epistemology);
  2. Students should acquire a close understanding of key debates, concepts, and topics relevant to the study of the philosophy of the social sciences and of the (contested) distinction between the natural and the social sciences;
  3. Students should understand the different ways in which the epistemological status of the social sciences can be cashed out (including positivism, interpretivism, critical rationalism, conventionalism, etc.);
  4. 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;
  5. Students should be able to imagine or point to the ways in which the epistemological questions about the social sciences can impact or inform the problems of governance, public policy and administration


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

Lectures (attendance highly recommended)
Working groups/seminars (attendance compulsory)

Course Load

According to established norms, a 5 ECTS course requires (5x28=) 140 hours of study.

For this course the study load is roughly divided as follows:
Lectures (7x2) 14 hours
Seminars (7x2) 14 hours
Readings (compulsory readings) 80 hours
Paper research / writing 32 hours

                                              Total: 140 hours

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.


Blackboard will be used for communicating with students and for sharing the necessary documents (syllabus, paper assignment description, etc.).

Reading list

To be specified.


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