Year of entry: 2018
Course unit details:
Philosophy & Social Science
|Unit level||Level 1|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|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.
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
- Analytical skills
- Oral communication
- Written communication
|Written assignment (inc essay)||33%|
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.
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.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Michael Scott||Unit coordinator|