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School of Social Sciences

Philosophy lecture
BA Philosophy
Develop the knowledge and analytical skills to examine today's biggest questions.

BA Philosophy

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Philosophy & Social Science

Unit code PHIL10641
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course investigates three main areas:

1. What is science? What distinguishes sciences, such as physics and chemistry, from non-sciences, such as history and philosophy, and from pseudo-sciences such as astrology and homeopathy? Is there a distinctive scientific method, and if so, what is it?

2. Probabilistic and Statistical reasoning: Much science - in particular social science - relies on statistical evidence and probabilistic reasoning. But such reasoning is strewn with pitfalls. How can we avoid drawing the wrong conclusions from statistical evidence?

3. Issues in the philosophy of social science: The course discusses various philosophical problems that arise from the study of social phenomena, such as: what is the difference between behaviour and action? Is there a universal standard of rationality, or is rationality relative to a particular culture or conceptual framework? Can facts be distinguished from values and is a value-neutral social science possible?


The course aims to:

- Introduce students to key issues in philosophy as they bear on the social sciences
- Enhance their skills at understanding and evaluating various philosophical problems.
- Acquaint students with some of the key concepts that characterise philosophical thinking about the social sciences.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should have:

- Knowledge of some central problems in the philosophy connected with the social sciences.
- The ability to conduct and assess elementary probabilistic reasoning.
- An understanding of key philosophical concepts such as knowledge, explanation, probability and action.

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial each week

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 67%
Written assignment (inc essay) 33%

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Recommended reading

Preliminary reading

1. What is science?
Alan Chalmers, What is this Thing called Science? (orig. 1982, many reprints), Chs.1-3, or
James Ladyman, Understanding the Philosophy of Science (London: Routledge, 2002), Chs.1-4 (available from the University Library as an e-book)

2. Probabilistic and Statistical reasoning
Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), Chs.1-3.

3. Issues in the philosophy of social science
Carlos Moya, The Philosophy of Action. An Introduction. (Cambridge: Polity, 1990), Ch.1;
Rowland Stout, Action (Chesham:Acumen, 2005), Ch. 2.
B. R. Wilson (ed.), Rationality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1970), Chs. 10-11.
David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature (any edition; available from several online sources), Book III, Part 1.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Scott Unit coordinator

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