Philosophy of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Methodology courses and philosophy of science


Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 3
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €525,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information

Contact:

Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)


In the academic year 2021-2022 this course will take place online.

Session 1
November 4 (Thursday) 2021
09.30-12.30

Session 2
November 18 (Thursday) 2021
09.30-12.30

Session 3
December 2 (Thursday) 2021
13.30-16.30

Session 4
December 16 (Thursday) 2021
13.30-16.30
 


Aims and working method

This course offers an advanced view on the History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences and the Humanities, by focusing on some large themes within the systematic reflections on human science and scientific practices.

The goal is to discuss historical, methodological, theoretical, and philosophical questions in their mutual interrelatedness; participants are encouraged to present issues from within their own fields and from the perspective of their own research projects, and discuss them in an interdisciplinary manner and in relation to the course literature.

The course will consist of four three-hour sessions and will didactically be based on two principles:

  • a layered structure: we work from the more general (the history of the human sciences; and the reflections on scientific advancements at large) towards the more concrete (several approaches characteristic in and for the human sciences; and the status of the researcher and of expertise in the human sciences).
  • for all sessions participants will be challenged to provide cases and examples from their own field or experience.

Participants will be informed well in advance on Canvas on how to prepare for the sessions.


Learning objectives

(General)

After course completion participants:

  • are able to reflect on the relation between natural sciences, humanities and social sciences, and when it comes to their histories, institutionalization, but also their methodologies, ontologies, epistemologies, and the position of the researcher (General).
  • are able to place their own research in, between or beyond the tradition(s) in the social sciences and humanities; as well as reflect on their own role and positionality as expert and citizen in their research. (General)

(Session specific)

After course completion participants:

  • have insight in the historical, political and institutional context under which the social sciences and the humanities developed in the 19th and early 20th century. (Session 1)
  • are able to apply and illustrate the implications of some of the important philosophical insights of the last 70 years related to and critically aimed at the more traditional linear, cumulative, objectivist conception of science, with its emphasis on the neutrality of the researcher and objectivity of knowledge. (Session 2)
  • are able to analyse and compare the different approaches in the human sciences– causal explanation, hermeneutic understanding, and critique – and relate this to their own research project(s). (Session 3)
  • are able to explain, and reflect on, the role and positionality of the researcher within social scientific practices and within humanities research; and reflect on the changing role in society of the expert. (Session 4)

Session descriptions

Session 1: The Human Science Revolution(s) of the 19th and 20th century

  • The main questions in this session will be: what constitutes/ unites/separates the humanities (‘Geisteswissenschaften’) and the social sciences from the natural sciences? What are the different perspectives on ‘reality’ (ontology) within these domains; and the accessibility of this reality to come to knowledge (epistemology)?
  • Next to a general introduction to these issues, we will have short introductions by the participants on their own research, and some preliminary reflections on this subject.

Session 2: Epistemes, Paradigms and Research Programmes

  • We focus on the insights of the philosophers and historians of science Michel Foucault, Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and their respective concepts of ‘episteme’, ‘paradigm’, and ‘research programmes’. What are the implications of these insights for the status of scientific theory and knowledge in general? How do these authors break with a particular view of science centred around the concepts of ‘progress’ and ‘objectivity’?
  • Participants will be asked to place their own research in a particular episteme, paradigm and research programme.
  • And: under what historical, political-economic, technical and institutional conditions does your research become possible, but also relevant?

Session 3: Erklären, Verstehen and Critical Theory

  • We focus on the distinction – introduced by Dilthey and expanded upon by the Frankfurt School and Jürgen Habermas - between causally explaining [German: Erklären], hermeneutic understanding [German: Verstehen] and critique [German: Kritik] as conflicting approaches/traditions within the social sciences and the humanities. What are the aims of science within each approach? What methods are involved? What is the status and role of the researcher within these approaches?
  • In this session the full research projects of the participants will be read and discussed. Issues of methodology and philosophy will be identified, diagnosed, and evaluated, also in relation to the above-mentioned approaches and research ‘interests’ of each approach.

Session 4: Situated Knowledges and Expertise

  • This session is focused on the ‘situated’ position/positionality of the researcher and the consequences of this perspective for more traditional scientific views on concepts such as neutrality and objectivity. What makes that scientific research can or should be regarded as ‘situated’? To what extent does this situatedness need to be made explicit? Additionally, how does situatedness relate to scientific or academic expertise?

About the instructor

dr. Christian van der Veeke (1980) was trained as a social and political philosopher at the Faculty of Philosophy (now: Erasmus School of Philosophy), and has a strong research and teaching interest in the history, philosophy and methodologies of the human sciences.

Christian received his PhD in 2013 for a PhD-thesis on Critical Theory - its historical, methodological, conceptual and normative background, and its implications for democratic theory (Title: Critical Philosophy and the Democratic Horizon. A post-foundational approach to philosophical critique and democracy).

Christian was appointed as the Academic Director of the Erasmus Honours Programme by the Rector Magnificus in 2019, and he is the current Head of the Humanities Department at Erasmus University College (EUC). At EUC he coordinates, and teaches in, the following EUC-courses: Science in Practice (100-level), Modernity (100-level), Aesthetics and Politics (300-level) and Contemporary Political Philosophy (300-level). In the past, he taught the MA-course ‘Contributions of Philosophy to the Humanities’ at the Faculty of Philosophy at the EUR.