Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 201600160
Philosophy of the Social Sciences: Dare to Doubt
Course info
Course code201600160
EC5 - 7.5
Course goals
Insight into various philosophies of the social sciences.

•        Knowledge of various approaches and methodologies within the social sciences
•        Knowledge of most important philosophical assumption in understanding and explaining social behavior
•        Application of these insights to a specified case study
The social sciences constitute of a fairly young discipline in the house of sciences (approximately one hundred fifty years old), and it is still strongly developing but also strongly fragmented. There are various sub-disciplines (such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.) but within these, there are also numerous ‘directions’, each with its own methodology and approaches. To researchers, but also to practitioners, it is no luxurious knowledge te be aware of these various views to, approaches of and assumptions in these various fields, since such knowledge will allow you to perceive the possibilities but also limitations of one’s own field.
Social scientists must takes sides on philosophical problems, whether they like it or not, even whether they know it or not, says Alexander Rosenberg. Why? Because the problems of the philosophy of social sciences are all versions a fundamental question: how to explain behavior (or individuals, groups, societies)? And yet these fundamental issues are rarely put to question. So we dare you! We dare you to doubt some of the most fundamental assumptions in your field. Because we believe that this allows you to make better choices.
Through questions such as about free will, causality or what constitutes a society, this course, which is open to all master students (not only of social sciences, but also to Descartes master students and all other interested students at master level) offers insight into the fundamental assumptions in the most important approaches in the social sciences, and it searches the strengths and weaknesses of the various models therein. What has agency got to do with free will, how does it relate to cause and effect, what is the nature of intentions? What role do these issues play in the rational-choice model, and to what extent is it a ‘social construct’?
For their essay, students will read and analyze from an array of preselected texts two classical papers (or chapters), about free will. They will compare and contrast the approaches used in these texts, and search them for underlying ‘logics’ and assumptions. The purpose of this exercise is to come to a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of particular approaches in the social sciences, so as to form a reasoned opinion on the possibilities and limitations of the social scientific field.

Academic skills
The following skills are tested in this course
  • Comparison of social scientific perspectives, assumptions and methodologies
  • Analysis of social scientific presuppositions
  • Reflection on own (philosophical) assumptions

Kies de Nederlandse taal