Philosophy of Social Science - 3 ECTS

The course consists of 8 sessions in which various themes and issues in the philosophy of the social sciences will be analysed and discussed. Participants are expected to read the literature for each session beforehand. In turns participants are also expected to prepare sessions (except the first session) by identifying ambiguities and difficulties in the texts and raising questions for discussion. In addition, participants are asked to answer questions and fulfil small tasks prepared by the lecturer, which intend to link up the discussed materials with social science research in general or the particular research projects of the PhD candidates.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Mon 16 March 2020 until Wed 1 April 2020

Duration Registration deadline: March 2, 2020
Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201

The course will be completed by the writing of a (5-page) paper, in which (part of) the content of the course will be brought to bear on the problems and dilemmas to which participants are confronted in their respective PhD projects. One possible format is a ‘duo-paper’, in which two participants mutually interrogate each other’s research projects in the light of the themes and issues discussed in the course (in that case, the size of the paper has to be 8 pages).    

Target group and min/max number of participants

WASS-PhD’s, 10/20 participants

Assumed prior knowledge



March 16 10.10-11.40
March 18 10.10-11.40
March 20 10.10-11.40
March 23 10.10-11.40
March 25 10.10-11.40
March 27 10.10-11.40
March 30 10.10-11.40
April 1 10.10-11.40


  1. 16/3 Introduction: expectations, inventory of themes and issues
    Traditional philosophy of science: a recapitulation
    - Samir Okasha, Philosophy of Science: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, Ch. 1 and Ch. 5.
    Further reading (optional):
    - James Ladyman, Understanding Philosophy of Science, London: Routledge, 2002 (available online)
  2. 18/3 Social science as a vocation
    - Max Weber, ‘Science as a vocation’ (1919), online:
  3. 20/3 The hermeneutic tradition
    - Kees van der Pijl, ‘Hermeneutics, Weber, Constructivism’, in Kees van der Pijl, A survey of global political economy, University of Sussex, 2009, pp. 88-113; online:
    - Daniel Little, ‘What is hermeneutic explanation?’,
  4. 23/3 A critical realist perspective on social science
    - Steve Fleetwood, ‘Bhaskar and critical realism’, in: P. Adler, P. Du Gay, G. Morgan and M. Reed, 2014 eds., Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory and Organisation Studies, Oxford University Press, pp. 182-219; also online:
  5. 25/3 Value neutrality revisited
    - Henk van den Belt, ‘Science, Values and the Science-Policy Interface: the views of Max Weber, logical positivism and critical rationalism – and more recent views’ (2017), manuscript
    - Heather Douglas, ‘Rejecting the Ideal of Value-Free Science’, in Harold Kincaid, John Dupré and Alison Wylie, eds., Value-Free Science: Ideals and Illusion, Oxford University Press 2007, pp. 120-139
  6. 27/3 The strengths and limitations of Rational Choice Theory
    - Jon Elster, ‘The nature and scope of rational-choice explanation’, in: E. Ullman-Margalit, 1988 ed., Science in Reflection, Kluwer, pp. 51-65
    - Geoffrey M. Hodgson, ‘On the limits of rational choice theory’, Economic Thought 1 (2012): 94-108
  7. 30/3 The replicability crisis in social science: diagnosis and prescription
    - Harold Paschler and Christine R. Harris, ‘Is the replicability crisis overblown? Three arguments examined?’, Perspectives on Psychological Science 7.6 (2012): 531-536.
    - Brian D. Earp and David Trafinow, ‘Replication, falsification, and the crisis of confidence in social psychology’, Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 1-11
  8. 1/4 Social science and phronesis
    - Edward W. Gimbel, ‘The golden mean and the golden hammer: phronesis and method in contemporary political science’, Polity 46.2 (2014): 274-295
    - Bent Flyvbjerg, ‘Five misunderstandings about case-study research’. Qualitative Inquiry 12.2 (2006): 219-245
    Further reading (optional):
    - Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram, ‘Important next steps in phronetic social science’, in: Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram, 2012 eds., Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, Cambridge University Press, pp. 285-97.

Course fee 

WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE PhDs with TSP € 215
a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools € 430
All others € 645

NB: for some courses, PhD candidates from other WUR graduate schools with a TSP are also entitled to a reduced fee. Please consult your Education/PhD Programme Coordinator for more information

Cancellation conditions

The participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.