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FASS507 Introduction to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences


Module description

  • empiricism, positivism and falsificationism
  • an introduction to post-empiricist philosophy of science, especially Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend
  • explanation in the social sciences
  • the varieties of interpretivist philosophy of social science
  • the debates surrounding a realist philosophy of science
  • critical social science
  • the feminist critique of the objectivity of science
  • the relevance and application of these debates to a variety of social sciences


Aims and objectives

FASS507 provides an introduction to the philosophy of the social sciences by exploring the following questions:

What claims to knowledge are made by science?

Can social science make similar claims to natural science to be a science?

What other philosophical foundations might social science use to establish its claims to systematic knowledge?

What are the main different positions in contemporary philosophy of social science? What arguments are used for and against these different positions?

What relevance does the philosophy of social science have to the practicalities of social research?

How can it help us think about the role that the social sciences do and should play in society?

By the end of the course students should be able to understand the crucial differences between different philosophical perspectives on the practice of social science, and be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of how their research might constitute a claim to knowledge.


Timing and Location




10/10/14 - 12/12/14

Number of sessions:

10 x 2.5 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Fridays, 9.00-11.30, Furness Lecture Theatre 3


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6

Maximum quota: 30

Charge to non-FASS departments: £444



Coursework and Assessment

Coursework requirements

1 x 5,000 word paper on the philosophy of the social sciences, related to student's own research discipline and topic.

Coursework due dates


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Graduate School, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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