Philosophy of the Social Sciences

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mattia Gallotti


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course examines philosophical problems of social science concerning the nature of social facts and social scientific theory. The first part of the course will focus on traditional questions of scientific method about the nature of understanding and the kind of knowledge the social sciences should, or can, aim for; as well as on questions of ontology pertaining to the nature of the social world and the classic dispute about 'what there is' in society. The overarching goal is to provide an intellectual geography of the philosophy of the social sicences, to which students will refer in the second part of the course when specific philosophical issues will be closely analysed and discussed. Contents to be covered in the second term will be structured around three main themes: action, rationality and intelligibility; the relationship between mind and society; the scope, aim and prospects of critical and normative approaches to social science theory and practice.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write three essays: two in Michaelmas term and one in Lent term.  

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. Indicative readings include: Alex Rosenberg, Philosophy of Social Science (Fifth edition); Harold Kincaid, Philosophical Foundations of the Social Sciences; Daniel Steel and Francesco Guala (eds.), The Philosophy of Social Science ReaderMichael Martin and Lee McIntyre (eds.), Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science.


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (33%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 11.3
Merit 67.6
Pass 12.7
Fail 8.5

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2018/19: 23

Average class size 2018/19: 12

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills