PH426      Half Unit
Philosophy of Society

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof. J. McKenzie Alexander


This course is available on the 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 core debates about the nature of society, as well related epistemic and political questions. Example topics that may be covered include: questions about social kinds – are they distinct from natural kinds? How do social kinds shape individuals?; groups – are there group agents? What are the grounds of solidarity within and between groups?; social structures – what are they, and how do they explain and constrain behavior?


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write a formative essay in the Autumn Term. Other formative activities will depend on the approach of the seminar leader, e.g., presentations.  

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. Indicative readings include:

  • Nancy Cartwright and Eleanora Montuschi (eds.), Philosophy of the Social Sciences: a new introduction;
  • Harold Kincard, John Dupré, and Alison Wylie (eds.), Value-Free Science: Ideals and Illusions
  • Jon Elster, Explaining Social Behaviour
  • John H. Miller and Scott Page, Complex Adaptive Systems;
  • Dawn Langan Teele, Field Experiments and Their Critics: Essays on the Uses and Abuses of Experimentation in the Social Sciences
  • 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.


Essay (50%, 2000 words) and essay (50%, 2000 words) in the WT.

The summative assessment for this course will consist of two essays.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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