SFEL8000 Philosophy of Science for the Social Sciences

– Fall 2018

Application deadline: Monday 20 August 2018 
The course starts: Tuesday 28 August 2018
Teacher: Professor Håkon Leiulfsrud
Coordinator: Siw Berg


Formal requirements:

Masters degree in the Social Sciences or equivalent.

The course has largely what could be called a “laboratory character”, meaning that concepts and perspectives of philosophy of science are applied on research within the participant’s own research tradition. Consequently, it is to prefer that the participants have begun working with the thesis, making it possible to relate their own work to themes of philosophy of science. If the participant not formally has begun working with the thesis, it is necessary that a research plan is formulated, specifying research questions, method (s) and theoretical perspective (s).

The aims of the course are:

To give the students extensive training in philosophy of science and its application in the research process.

To give a broad overview of the field of philosophy of science, highlighting key philosophical/methodological concepts and perspectives with demonstrations of their application in social/behavioral science research.

To give the participants the opportunity, from a philosophy of science perspective, to identify and analyze theoretical and methodological problems in their own research project.

To give the participants an opportunity to conduct an analysis of research works in their own field of interest, based on concepts/perspectives of philosophy of science.


The teaching consists of six introductory lectures and four seminars (two obligatory) distributed over four modules. The seminars in module 3 require active participation from the students. Examination is in the form of written and oral presentation of group tasks and written individual analysis tasks, related to the participants’ research interests

Module 1: Introduction. Basic concepts and perspectives

Tuesday 28 August, 13.15-16.00 - auditorium D107, Dragvoll Campus

Wednesday 29 August, 13.15-16.00 - auditorium D4, Dragvoll Campus

Thursday 30 August, 13.15-16.00  - auditorium .137, Dragvoll Campus-

An overview of ontological and epistemological traditions and their implications for contemporary social/behavioral science. Paradigmatic traditions - programmatic and “practical”, methodological standpoints. Controversies within the field of philosophy of science. Research questions - Possibilities and limitations. The role of values in research. Research Ethics.

Module 2: Philosophy of science – methodological implications and strategies.

Wednesday 3 October, 13.15-16.00 - auditorium D4, Dragvoll Campus

Thursday 4 October, 09.15-12.00 - auditorium D12, Dragvoll Campus

Thursday 4 October, 13.15-16.00 - auditorium D107, Dragvoll Campus

The building blocks of social science - Definitions and concept-formation. Descriptive strategies. Traditions of interpretation. Forms of aggregation and strategies of inference. Forms of explanation and explanatory strategies. The practical use of theory. Social and behavioral science: A cumulative project?

Module 3: Workshop related to the exam.

Tuesday 6 November, 13.15-17.00 - auditorium D106, Dragvoll Campus

Wednesday 7 November, 13.15-17.00 - auditorium DL140, Dragvoll Campus


Summary, Workshop

Module 4: Seminar with feedback (not obligatory)

Tuesday 4. December, 09.15-12.00 - auditorium D5, Dragvoll Campus

Tuesday 4.December, 13.15-16.00 - auditorium DI176, Dragvoll Campus

Tutorial related to specific PhD-projects.

Obligatory activities: Participation in module 1-3, group assignments and individual assignments.


SFEL8000 reading list

Selection to be made, dependent on participant’s research interests.

  • Abbot, A. 2004. Methods of Discovery. Heuristics for the Social Sciences, New York, London, W.W. Norton & Company. Baert, P. 2013. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Towards Pragmatism, Cambridge, Polity. Becker, H.S. 1998. Tricks of the Trade. How to Think About Your Research While You Are Doing It. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Benton, T. & Craib, I. 2001. Philosophy of Social Science. The Philosophical Foundations of Social Thought. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Bird, A. & Ladyman, J. 2013. Arguing About Science, Routledge. Blaikie, N. & Priest, J. (2017). Social Research: paradigms in Action. Cambridge: Polity. Bourdieu, P. 2004. Science of Science and Reflexivity. Oxford: Polity. Couvalis, G. 1997. The Philosophy of Science. Science and Objectivity, London, Sage. Dancy, J. Sandis, C. 2015. Philosophy of Action. An Anthology, Wiley Blackwell. Delanty, G. & Strydom, P. (eds.) .2003. Philosophies of Social Science. The Classic and Contemporary Readings. Maidenhead Philadelphia: Open University Press. Gergen, K.J. & Gergen, M. (eds.) (2003). Social construction: a reader. London, Sage. Hacking, I. 1999. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press. Harding, S. (ed.).2004. The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader. Intellectual and Political Controversies. New York: Routledge. Hollis, M. 1994. The Philosophy of Social Science. An Introduction, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Kim, J. 2011. Philosophy of Mind. Third edition, Westview Press. Kuhn, T. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 50th Anniversary edition. With an Introductory Essay by Ian Hacking, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press. Kim, J. (2011). Philosophy of mind. (3. ed.) Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Lamont, M. 2009. How Professors Think. Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment, Cambridge Massachusetts, London, Harvard University Press. Martin. M. & McIntyre. L. C. (eds.) 1994. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science, Cambridge, Mass. The MIT-Press. Montuschi, E.2003. The Objects of Social Science. London: Continuum. Newton-Smith, W.H. (ed).2001. A Companion to the Philosophy of Science, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Nowotny, H. Scott, P., Gibbons, M. 2011. Rethinking Science. Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty, Cambridge, Polity. O’Connor, T. and Sandis, C. 2013. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action, Wiley-Blackwell. Radder, H. (ed). 2003. The Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation, Pittsburgh, The University of Pittsburgh Press. Sayer, R.A. (2010). Method in social science: a realist approach. (Rev. 2. ed.) London: Routledge. Sohlberg, P., Leiulfsrud, H.. 2017. Theory in action. Theoretical Constructionism, Brill, Leiden, Boston. Steel, D. and Guala, F (eds). 2011. The Philosophy of Social Science Reader, London and New York, Routledge. Symons, J. and Calvo, P. 2012. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology, London and New York, Routledge. Williams, M. 2001. Problems of knowledge. A critical introduction to Epistemology. Oxford University Press, 2001.

    General guidelines for research ethics:.



    Additional material related to the participants’ specific research interests.