Description of the specialisation
Philosophy of Natural Sciences
The specialisation Philosophy of Natural Sciences covers ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues arising from the natural sciences.
Ontological issues pertain to the ultimate constitution of the world studied by natural scientists. What sorts of objects are acknowledged by the natural sciences? How are these objects defined and identified? In what senses can they be said to be real?
Epistemological issues pertain to the nature and limits of our knowledge of the natural world. How are concepts related to the world? What is the status of theoretical entities? What is the difference between observation and experiment?
Lastly, methodological issues pertain to the practice and dynamics of research in the natural sciences, including the interpretation of empirical data, theory formulation, and hypothesis test. A particular focus is the diversity of the natural sciences, which range from law formulating sciences such as physics to historical sciences such as earth science. A selection of these topics is selected for discussion each academic year.
Objectives and achievement levels
The MA Philosophy 120 EC programme has the following objectives:
- to enable students to acquire academic knowledge, understanding and skills, and train them in the use of scientific methods in the field of the philosophy of a discipline;
- to enable students to develop the following academic and professional skills:
independent academic reasoning and conduct,
the ability to analyse complex problems,
the ability to clearly report academic results, both in writing and orally;
- to prepare students for an academic career and further education;
- to prepare students for a career outside academia.
Graduates of the programme have attained the following learning outcomes, listed according to the Dublin descriptors:
Knowledge and understanding
knowledge and understanding in the field of the history, foundations, methodology and/or ethics of the specific disciplines;
knowledge and understanding with regard to the social and cultural meaning of philosophy in general and the philosophy of the specific disciplines in particular;
knowledge and understanding of the main philosophical elements of the discipline as well as knowledge and understanding of the problems, methods and key terms of these elements.
Applying knowledge and understanding
- the ability, based on the acquired knowledge and understanding, to contribute to discussions in philosophy of the specific discipline, and in related areas.
the ability, on the basis of the sound knowledge of philosophy acquired during the programme, to analyse complex philosophical problems;
the abilty to judge the reliability of different kinds of sources;
to forme judgements based on different kinds of sources;
a realistic view of the reliability of their conclusions;
the ability to integrate different approaches to philosophical questions and compare these with each other.
the ability to give a clear presentation of philosophical problems, ideas, theories, interpretations and arguments, for specialist audiences as well as for a general audience;
the ability to write philosophical papers at an academic level.
- the possession of learning skills that allow graduates to continue their study of philosophy of the specific discipline, and to formulate a research proposal for a PhD.
The two-year MA programme in Philosophy 120 EC offers five specialisations, in which students are able to combine the study of philosophy with a non-philosophical discipline:
Combining two master’s programmes
Students are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in the discipline of the chosen specialisation, which enables them to follow the non-philosophical component of their master’s programme at the faculty or department of the chosen discipline. Students who have already obtained a master’s degree in the chosen (non-philosophical) discipline are normally exempted from this part of the programme.
Full-time and part-time
The programme offers both full-time and part-time tuition. The part-time programme is offered as a daytime course. The full-time programme spans two years (including the non-philosophical component), the part-time programme spans three years. The only difference between the two programmes is in the length of time required for their completion; in content they are identical.
The MA Philosophy 120 EC consists of the following components:
40 EC / MA or MSc courses in the chosen discipline outside philosophy
20 EC / Two mandatory specialist courses in philosophy of the (chosen) specific discipline
10 EC / One mandatory core seminar
10 EC / One mandatory course in philosophy
20 EC / Two optional courses in philosophy
20 EC / Master’s thesis and Thesis Seminar
It is required that students choose their optional courses in philosophy from the courses that are selected for their specialisation, and that the subject of their master’s thesis belongs to the field of their specialisation. Furthermore, the 500-level courses outside philosophy (for a total of 40 EC) must be completed in the academic discipline specified in the name of their specialisation.
A maximum of 10 EC of the non-philosophical component of the MA programme in Philosophy 120 EC can be replaced by an internship. If more than 10 EC have been obtained for the internship the extra credits will be recorded as extra-curricular components on the diploma supplement.
A possible planning of the two-year programme is presented below. Please note that the sequence of the various components of individual programmes may deviate from the scheme proposed due to the availability of courses in a particular semester, or to the extent to which the non-philosophical part of the programme has already been completed. Keep in mind that there will be one mandatory specialist course on offer each year; therefore one of these mandatory specialist courses (indicated as: Philosophy of [name of the specific discipline]) must be completed in the first year and the other one in the second year.
As students will generally be enrolled in two master’s programmes the MA Philosophy 120 EC requires a careful planning. Students are strongly advised yo discuss their programme with the Coordinator of Studies before the start of their first semester.
30 EC / MSc courses in one of the natural sciences
10 EC / Specialist course Philosophy of Natural Sciences
10 EC / Core seminar
10 EC / One optional course in philosophy
10 EC / MSc courses in one of the natural sciences
10 EC / Specialist course Philosophy of Natural Sciences
10 EC / One mandatory course in philosophy
10 EC / One optional course in philosophy
20 EC / MA thesis and Thesis Seminar
Depending on the number of enrolments the specialist courses will be offered either as a full seminar or as a series of tutorial sessions.
Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation
Requirements for graduation
In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 120 EC programme and have completed their final thesis as a component of that programme. The master’s thesis is an independent academic contribution to philosophy of the specific discipline. The student is required to write a master’s thesis in the second year of the MA Philosophy 120 EC – normally in the last semester.
The master’s thesis should clearly show that the student meets the attainment levels which have been set for this programme in terms of knowledge and skills. More specifically, the master’s thesis and the working method for the thesis should demonstrate that the student:
has acquired knowledge and understanding in the field of the history, foundations, methodology and/or ethics of the specific discipline, that provides a basis for originality in developing and applying original ideas and analyses;
knows the discussions in the forefront of his/her field;
is able to contribute to current discussions in philosophy of the specific discipline and related areas;
is able to analyse complex philosophical problems and to forme judgements based on different kinds of sources;
has a realistic view of the tenability and reliability of his/her conclusions;
is able to integrate or confront different approaches to philosophical questions;
in short, is able to write philosophical papers at an academic level.
Formal requirements and assessment criteria
The thesis for the MA Philosophy 120 EC has a workload of 20 EC's and the length of the thesis is normally approximately 20,000 words. Depending on the subject, the student and the supervisor may agree on a different length. Other formal requirements that the thesis must satisfy are listed in the Protocol Graduation Phase
Agreements and supervision
The thesis must be supervised by a staff member of the Leiden Institute for Philosophy. The agreements relating to the planning and supervision of the writing of the MA thesis are set out in writing by the student and the supervisor in the Agreements relating to the MA thesis form. The agreements include details on the choice of subject of the thesis, on the frequency of sessions with the thesis supervisor and the manner of supervision, and on the phasing of the research leading up to the thesis.
The master’s thesis shall be defended as part of the final examination. The grade of the master’s thesis is determined by the examiners after the questioning (defense of the thesis) in the MA examination. Graduation is possible at any time during the academic year, except for July. However, graduation within the current academic year is only guaranteed when the final draft of the thesis has been approved of by the supervisor and sent to the Board of Examiners not later on June 15th.
Prof. dr. J.W. (James) McAllister
For questions relating to the contents of the programme.
Coordinator of Studies
Coordinator of Studies of the MA Philosophy 120 EC.
For questions relating to programme requirements, planning, regulations, graduation, etc.
Career preparation in the MA Philosophy 120 EC
The MA Philosophy 120 EC at Leiden is a demanding two-year master’s programme that investigates the philosophical foundations and methodological approaches of various non-philosophical disciplines. As students generally combine a master’s in a non-philosophical discipline with the MA Philosophy 120 EC, their career perspectives obviously exceed those of students who complete an MA in Philosophy only. The comments below concern the philosophy component of their education.
The MA Philosophy 120 EC consists of five specialisations. In each specialisation, the progamme aims to enhance knowledge of a particular discipline with complementary understanding of its philosophical foundations, and offers a sophisticated knowledge of the field’s traditional and recent philosophical developments, as well as an advanced training in philosophical methodologies and skills.
The intellectual skills students will develop in the MA Philosophy 120 EC are transferable to most non-philosophical professions. The programme will train students to become a critical thinker, capable of analysing complex ideas and evaluating the principles of various positions. Students will study, analyse and discuss primary philosophical texts, and learn to develop and communicate their ideas both orally and in writing.
How can you use this knowledge and the skills that you acquire? Which specialisation should you choose within your study programme and why? What skills do you already have, and what further skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses that you choose into something that you would like to do after graduation?
These questions and more will be discussed at various times during your study programme. You may already have spoken about them with your study coordinator, the Humanities Career Service or other students, or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. Many different activities are organised to help you reflect on your own wishes and options, and give you the chance to explore the job market. All these activities are focused on the questions: ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I achieve my goals?’.
You will be notified via the Faculty website, your study programme website and email about further activities in the area of job market preparation. The following activities will help you to thoroughly explore your options, so we advise you to take careful note of them:
Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in the ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.
It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the e-Prospectus of the MA Philosophy 120 EC include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.
The skills you may encounter in the various courses are:
Courses of the MA Philosophy 120 EC
Courses of the study programme obviously help to prepare you for the job market. As a study programme, we aim to cover this topic either directly or less directly in each semester. Within the MA Philosophy, this takes place within, for example, the following courses:
If you have any questions about career choices, whether in your studies or on the job market, you are welcome to make an appointment with the career adviser of the the Humanities Career Service 071-5272235, or with your Coordinator of Studies, Patsy Casse.