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Philosophy of Social Science (PH330-15)

Timing & CATS

This module will not be running in 2017-18.

Module Description

The social sciences aim to give scientific explanations of certain social phenomena. Such phenomena might consist in individual actions, patterns of behaviour, social institutions, or social changes. Because the way in which they involve human beings, such phenomena don't seem to admit of the types of explanation normally given in the natural sciences. In this module, we will look in particular at three ideas that pose a particular challenge to giving an account of explanation in the social sciences: The idea that the concepts used to describe social phenomena are value-laden, the idea that social phenomena are the result of individuals making choices, and the idea that social phenomena involve individuals acting in groups. We will look at different models of explanation in the social sciences that try to accommodate these challenges, and the implications they have for the understanding of key notions such as rationality, agency and norms?

Learning Outcomes or Aims

By the end of this module, you should be able to understand some of the key theoretical approaches in philosophy of social science and their connections both to other areas of philosophy as well as to practice in the social sciences. You should be able to apply some of the key theoretical concepts used in contemporary philosophy of social science to analyse social phenomena as well as attempts to study them scientifically. And you should be able to come to articulate your own critical assessment of some key debates, e.g. about the role of values in social science or about whether particular theories in the social sciences provide an adequate picture of human nature.

Contact Time

In this module students must attend 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of seminars per week.

Lectures for 2016-17

Tuesdays 1pm to 2pm OC1.09

Wednesdays 11am to 12pm LIB2

Seminars for 2016-17

Seminars for this course start in week 2

There will be no seminars in reading week (week 6)

Please sign up for a seminar group using Tabula.

Assessment Methods

This module will be assessed in the following way:

  • Three shorter exercises, each of approximately 500 words, produced as take home exams, based on questions set on a Friday with the deadline the following Monday (worth 15% of the module)
  • One 2,500-word essay (worth 85% of the module)

Essays should be submitted to Tabula in line with the essay deadlines schedule.

Background Reading & Textbooks

The core readings for this module will be made available online. Many of them are also reprinted in the following book:

  • D. Steel & F. Guala (eds.): The Philosophy of Social Science Reader. London: Routledge 2010.

Course materials

From October 2016 course materials will be available on Moodle. Simply sign in and select the module from your Moodle home page.

Please note you must be regisitered for the module on eMR in order to access the relevant page.

Module Tutor


Dr Christoph Hoerl

C dot Hoerl at warwick dot ac dot uk

Take Home Exam

The Philosophy of Social Science take home exam paper will be available here from 12pm on Friday 10th March 2017.

Take home exam