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

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

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:

• Week I: What is philosophy of social sciences, and what does it address? Reflections on a) relations between the natural and the social sciences; b) individualism and collectivism in the philosophy of social sciences

• Week II: Are there laws in the social sciences? How do we explain in social sciences? ? On laws, generalizations and invariance in description, explanation and prediction

• Week III: Scientific objectivity, values, and standpoint theories

• Week IV and V: The issues addressed in weeks II and III will be tackled with a specific focus on philosophy of health and philosophy of psychiatry. Normativity and naturalism in philosophy of health, and classification and explanation of mental disorders will be discussed.

The course will be entirely delivered in English.

The course will start on March 19th 2019 and will have the following schedule: 

Tuesday, 3-5pm, Aula XI, Via Zamboni 38

Thursday, 1-3pm, Aula E, Via Zamboni 34

Friday, 11am-1pm, Aula E, Via Zamboni 34


Students are required to participate actively to the discussion.



The two main texts for weeks I, II and III will be:

"The Sage Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences", eds. I.C. Jarvie and J. Zamora-Bonilla, Sage, 2011

"Philosophy of Social Science. A New Introduction", eds. N. Cartwright and E. Montuschi, Oxford University Press, 2014

Texts for weeks IV and V will be:

"Naturalism in the Philosophy of Health", ed. E. Giroux, Springer 2016

"Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry", eds. K. Kendler and J. Parnas, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

A precise list of the compulsory papers to be read from these volumes will be provided at the beginning of the course.

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.

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, handouts and uploaded papers.

Office hours

See the website of Raffaella Campaner