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PPR.310: Philosophy of the Human Sciences

Tutor: Dr Garrath Williams Not available 2014/15
Restriction: PPR203

Course Description

This module considers key philosophical issues in the sciences of human societies and social structures, such as sociology, economics or history. As well as considering whether these subjects should be considered as sciences, strictly speaking, we look at a number of philosophical issue, such as those arising in the understanding of other societies (for instance, in anthropology), individualism versus collectivism in social explanation (for example, in sociology and history), and the scientific status of social models based on postulates of rational choice (for example, in economics and politics).

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Explain and critically assess some of the key debates and disputes in the philosophy of social science.
  • Appreciate the different views that can be taken in respect of the particular problems we will have covered.
  • Explain why different theories and methods may be appropriate to explain different phenomena.
  • Understand and apply key philosophical concepts that are relevant to a range of problems in the philosophy of social science.
  • Write critically about the philosophical and methodological debates we have covered.


40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 1 essay of 3000 words. Exam: 2 hours.

Teaching Method

Lecture (1.5 hours) and seminar (1 hour) weekly.

N.B. Lectures for PPR310 will be shared with PPR203 this year. It is important that you check the lecture times for PPR203 and attend these lectures.

Introductory Reading

Alan Chalmers What is this thing called science? (Open University Press, 1999)

Brian Fay Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)

Martin Hollis, The Philosophy of Social Science: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Peter Winch The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958)

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