77992 - Philosophy of Social Sciences (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Chiara Lisciandra
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: M-FIL/02
  • Language: English
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Philosophical Sciences (cod. 8773)

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing a deep knowledge of the major issues tackled in the contemporary epistemological debate on the social sciences. Core methodological and conceptual aspects of history, archaeology, anthropology, economics, psychology and - partly - medicine are addressed. Students will get familiar with relevant debates in contemporary philosophy of the social sciences, and shall be able to analyse and discuss key topics on the construction of scientific knowledge in such disciplines.

Course contents

Students will be introduced to some of the core topics in philosophy of the social sciences, and its most recent developments. After a critical introduction to "philosophy of the social sciences" as a field, the course will more specifically focus on: scientific objectivity and values, normativity, individualism and collectivism. Such topics will be both addressed in general and with a specific focus on case studies from sociology and economics. 

The course will be entirely delivered in English.

Students are required to take active part in the discussions and to interact in the analysis of a few papers to be read beforehand - which will be made available online.



Compulsory readings are:

Risjord, M. (2014) Philosophy of Social Science: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge, selected readings.

N.Cartwright and E.Montuschi (eds.) (2014), Philosophy of Social Science: A New Introduction, Oxford University Press, selected readings *Note that this edited volume is available as an e-book from the library*


Students not attending lectures will be required to read also the following texts (which will be made available online):

Hodgson, G.M., “Meanings of Methodological Individualism”, Journal of Economic Methodology, 2007, 14:2, 211–226.

Kincaid, H., “Open Empirical and Methodological Issues in the Individualism-Holism Debate”, Philosophy of Science, 2015, 82, 1127–1138.

Zahle, J. and Kincaid, H., “Why Be a Methodological Individualist?”, Synthese, 2019, 196, 655-675.

Carrier, M., “Values and Objectivity in Science: Value-Ladenness, Pluralism and the Epistemic Attitude”, Science & Education, 2013, 22, 2547–2568.

Douglas, H. “The Irreducible Complexity of Objectivity”, Synthese, 2004, 138, 453–473.

Longino, H. “Gender, Politics, and the Theoretical Virtues”, Synthese, 1995, 104: 383-397.


Teaching methods

The course will consist of lectures, which will either cover course contents or will consist in the reading and commenting of a text related to those contents. Students will be required to read some texts beforehand, to comment and discuss them in class. As a preparation for the final exam, students will prepare a short text on a topic assigned by the techer and give a short presentation on their own essay project.

Assessment methods

The exam will evaluate whether the student is familiar with the main topics dealt with in the course, and masters the fundamental notions needed to discuss merits and limits of the main current theories. The evaluation will take into account also the active participation during the course.

Students will have to write a short essay (min 2500, max 3000 words) in English on one of the topics addressed in course (references to be agreed upon with the Professor). The essay will be evaluated to establish whether the student is able to present and critically discuss the different theoretical persepctives examined in the course.

When students achieve an organic view of the issues addressed in lectures, demonstrating a mastery of the technical terminology and conceptual tools, and a keep knowledge of the texts and authors considered, they will be assessed with marks of excellence.

A positive assessment will be acknowledged to students who acquire an adequate, but not critical knowledge of the topics addressed, and use a correct, but not always precise language.

A mostly rote learning, the lack of adequate synthetic and/or analytic skills and of a specfic Language will lead to a fair evaluation.

Superficial knowledge of the course contents and/or inadequate use of technical langiage will lead to low grades.

Knowledge gaps, inappropriate or highly imprecise language, and lack of grasp of the critical points tackled in the course will lead to insufficient evaluation and failure

Teaching tools

Power-point slides, and uploaded papers.

Office hours

See the website of Chiara Lisciandra


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This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.