Philosophy of Social Sciences

Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Philosophy of Social Sciences
Course code
PHD009 (AF:365124 AR:190005)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Corso di Dottorato (D.M.45)
Educational sector code
2nd Term
Course year
Go to Moodle page
In the last decade the philosophy of the social sciences has become a vibrant field with exciting research on a host of topics. It is to some of this exciting research, and the debates that provide for a context of discussion, that this course will give detailed attention. This will lead to rethinking some of the classic questions in the field both at the philosophical level and in an applied form:
can social science be objective?
how do models of causality best work in social science?
what counts as scientific evidence? what use do we make of evidence, both in science and in policy making?
how can 'interdisciplinary research' be valued and promoted?
The course will address both students whose primary interest is in philosophy and students who concentrate more on the social science side. Discussion and exchange between these two groups will be highly encouraged during the course.
- a good background knowledge of the main philosophical debates about social science (past and current)
- knowledge of major perspectives of research and research methodology in social science
- knowledge of some of the main philosophical issues debated in social science and their relevance for social debate

Students should also acquire the following skills:
- to approach issues emerging from social science in a philosophically consistent and rigorous style of argument
- to single out and to be able to discuss some of the philosophical and social implications of the questions and problems raised by social science in specific practical contexts of research
- to assess the validity and relevance of philosophical arguments used in social scientific debates
No specific knowledge of the topics under investigation is expected. The course will address students with an interest in philosophy of science and social science, social methodology, scientific explanation, applied ethics, and interdisciplinary research.
1. Interdisciplinary research - sources and uses
2. Expert knowledge and social debate: a question of 'trust'
3. Scientific evidence, empirical methods and policy making
4. Causality, science, society
5. Research, objectivity, social practices

Course text:
N.Cartwright-E.Montuschi, Philosophy of Social Science: A New Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2014)
The text can be ordered online:

Further reading will ne suggested during the course and will be uploaded in Moodle.
Final assessment is by an essay (approx 6000 words) on a topic related to one of those discussed during the course, and confirmed by the course tutor.
Lectures, class discussions, seminars with invited speakers
Please contact the course instructor for any request of clarification concerning the course and related aspects.
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 07/07/2021