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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL5860M Philosophy of the Social Sciences

30 creditsClass Size: 20

Module manager: Dr Victor Dura Vila

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

PHIL3865Philosophy of the Social Sciences

Module replaces

HPSC5510 Realism and Representation in Science

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

The social sciences aim to understand various social phenomena involving the actions of individual human beings, the patterns of group behaviour, the nature of social institutions and the role of norms. What kind of understanding do the social sciences provide? How do they explain? Hoe do the social sciences differ from the natural sciences? What is the relationship between individuals and larger social structures? Do social structures exist over and above individuals? Is social science value-laden in a different way or to a different degree than natural science? This module looks at some of these issues in the philosophical of the social sciences, using a range of accessible examples.


On successful completion of this module, students should have developed a critical understanding of the philosophical issues concerning the nature and status of the social sciences and the explanation they provide.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module students will have knowledge of a range of issues in the philosophy of social sciences and ability to critically engage with those issues, at a level appropriate to a Masters' programme.

Skills outcomes
Ability to apply philosophical methods to specific science


The specific syllabus may vary from each to year, but topics will include a selection from the following:
- Are there laws in the social sciences?
- The nature of social scientific explanations
- Scientific modelling in the social sciences
- Causation and mechanisms on the social sciences
- The role of social values in science
- Philosophy of rational choice theory
- Scientific realism in the context of the social sciences

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours282.00
Total Contact hours18.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Students are required to prepare for each tutorial by completing a set reading and question-set, as well as researching recommended secondary source material.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The module leader will comment and contribute, where relevant, on tutorial groups discussion throughout the module.

Comments on draft essay plans will be offered to students up to the final week of the module.

Monitoring of progress via one-to-one tutorials will be made available during module tutor's office hour.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay6000 words (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:44:03


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