Philosophy of the Social Sciences

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mattia Gallotti


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.


No formal pre-requisites, but PH103 The Big Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy or equivalent is recommended.

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 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write three formative essays, two in Michaelmas term and one in Lent term. A mock exam will be given near the end of Lent term, with feedback provided.  Class presentations may also be required depending on the pedagogical approach adopted by the class teacher. 

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 Reader; Michael 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.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2018/19: 26

Average class size 2018/19: 9

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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