The Master’s programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, a research seminar, and a Master’s thesis.

Compulsory courses and seminar (30 EC)

History of the natural sciences (compulsory)

This course is an introductory course on both the history of science and the historiography of science. We will familiarize ourselves with the standard account of the history of science, including the so-called ‘Scientific Revolution’, but we also critically assess this interpretation and learn how new developments in the theory of history had an impact on the history of science. The history of science came of age since the 1930s. Initially, historians of science were often scientists of profession and they tended to think that science was predominantly a cognitive activity which was quite distinct from society and culture (internalism). From the 1970s onwards, people who were trained as historians began to take over from the scientists and argued that the history of science was determined from outside (externalism). Social, political and economic approaches were joined by cultural appraisals of the nature, production, and transmission of scientific knowledge. Where does such a variety of approaches leave a future generation of historians of science? How do new approaches of history, such as digital humanities, bear on the pursuit of the history of science? Finally, what is the relevance of the history of science for our society? 

Philosophy of science (compulsory)

This course addresses central subjects in the philosophy of science, including 1) the relation between theory and evidence; 2) Kuhn's philosophy of science; 3) the controversy about empiricism and scientific realism (logical empiricist view of science, van Fraassen's constructive empiricism, the 'Miracle argument' to support scientific realism, inference to the best explanation) 4) the Duhem-Quine thesis 5) philosophical perspectives on experimental practice.
Please note the contents may be subject to slight variations.
 

History, Role and Impact of the Humanities (compulsory)

The growth and specialization of science has led to the gap between the anciens et modernes, between Humanities and Natural Sciences and ultimately to the establishment of two separate worlds: the world of numbers and the world of language. Not only do many of the themes in Humanities scholarship fall outside the Natural Sciences, the two are often in conflict. After all, many artworks are based on obsolete concepts from the Natural Sciences. This course reconsiders the statute of the Humanities, surveys its history since the 16th century, compares its methods and techniques with those of the Natural Sciences, and asks why the Humanities have continuously been seen as an endangered species since they were formally established as a university discipline in the nineteenth century.
In the course three topics will be studied in depth. Firstly; the creation of critical humanism as a founding discipline in the late 16th and early seventeenth centuries. Emphasis will be on the work of Joseph Scaliger and Pierre Bayle, who both claimed that a historically founded analysis of texts would yield the same level of truth as mathematics did. Secondly, we will focus on the Rickert-Dilthey-Windelband debates in Germany and Europe at the turn of the 19th century, who all thought to have re-established a firm epistomological basis for the humanities. Finally we will concentrate on the postmodern crisis of the humanities in the last two decades of the 20th century. Connecting element will be the status of knowledge produced by research in the humanities and its relationship with politics and religion. While studying these topics ample time will be devoted to the question: what does a practitioner of the humanities, i.c. an historian, actually do. Visits to archives and libraries, the laboratories of the historian, will be part of the course.

Students will be familiar with the general historical development of the humanities. Students will be able to recognize and contextualize the social orientations, types of institutionalization and scientific methods within the humanities. Students will get a view of the relationship with neighbouring fields in the sciences and with unfamiliar scientific and scholarly traditions. They will also learn how to deal with the cultural issues, social expectations and political pressure that characterizes the practice of the humanities.

Students History and Philosophy of Science, for registration please contact your programme coordinator during the enrolment period.
 

Research seminar HPS (compulsory)

The research seminar has two components:
1.Attendance of colloquiums: students are required to attend at least 20 HPS colloquiums during their study. These can include HPS thesis colloquiums, Descartes colloquiums and other lectures, colloquiums or symposiums.
2.Participation in a reading group: each student should attend one of the three reading groups (history of science, philosophy of science, or philosophy of physics). These reading groups meet regularly to analyze and discuss research books or papers from the research field. Each of the reading groups has its own set of requirements, including the minimum number of meetings to attend and a small research paper or review.

Electives (30 EC)

Topics in Philosophy Language and Logic

This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in the area of the philosophy of language and and philosophy of logic.
 
The Status of Logical Principles
What is the status of logical principles? Can they be revised? Can't they be revised rationally? What could be a reason for revision? Could there be empirical reasons to revise logic? Could paradoxes or the phenomenon of vagueness in natural language be a reason for revision? In this course we will look at the recent debate concerning these questions.

Philosophy of A.I.

In this course wewill consider questions such as "Can computers think?", "Can the Turing test determine whether computers can think?", "Can physical symbol systems think?", "Can Chinese rooms think?", "Can connectionist networks think?", "Can computers think in images?", "Do computers have to be conscious to think?", "Are thinking computers mathematically possible?". The course starts with two introductory sessions, after which the students present papers on topics pertaining to the topics listed above. The students are required to participate actively during the course, not only by preparing a stimulating presentation, but also by providing references to websites and literature, advance reading in order to be able to participate in the discussion afterwards. There are two presentations each meeting, both of around 25 minutes with an ensuing discussion of 20 minutes. At the beginning of the course students can sign up for the topic they would like to present a paper on. This course is very much a joint effort of students and teaching staff.There will be an entrance test at a very early stage in the course. For those students who hold a bachelor's degree in AI or have taken courses in philosophy of cognitive science or in philosophy of computer science, this test will prove to be easy. All other students are advised to do both of the following: 1) study Copeland's book before the start of the course, and 2) get in touch with the contact person for this course at an early stage.

This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 

Science and the public. The making, distribution and reception of science

Science has always been dependent on society. It is supported to the degree that governments, the public, interest groups, or other agencies recognize its value. The public image of science is therefore of vital importance to the continuing existence of science. But where do public images of science come from? Partly at least from the scientists themselves. Scientists use a wide variety of strategies, such as popularization, to influence this image. One may ask how effectively they communicate scientific knowledge and images of science. And to what degree does the image conveyed in popular science correspond to actual scientific practice? The relation between science and the public is one of strong mutual influence. Some historians have suggested that public attitudes shape the self-image of scientists to the point that they are willing to revise the core-values of their disciplines. There are sociologists of science who claim that knowledge is only established once the public are convinced. To make matters even more complicated, it should always be kept in mind that at any time there is not one monolithic science and one undifferentiated audience. Moreover both science and society have changed tremendously in the course of history. This course studies the history of their co-construction. 

Philosophy of space and time

This course explores the conceptual foundations of our three main theories of space and time: Newtonian mechanics, special relativity and general relativity, including discussion of related concepts such as dynamical symmetries. We shall also make contact to issues in the philosophy of time, such as the flow and experience of time and the block universe. The course is suitable for students both with and without background in physics or mathematics.

Topics in Philosophy of Mind

This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in Philosophy of the mind. The topic of 2017-2018 is: 
 
In this course we’ll be reading John McDowell’s seminal book
Mind & World, along with some articles dealing with themes from the book. Philosopher’s have long struggled to give a satisfactory picture of the place of minds in the world.
n this important book McDowell diagnoses why this problem is so persistent for (contemporary) philosophy and points the way to a cure.

Law as an Academic Discipline, Science and Humanities

Law as an Academic Discipline, Science and Humanities is a reflective course developed in the ‘jurisprudence’ department of Utrecht University and deals with the study of law as an academic pursuit. Does such a thing as legal science exist and if so, what is it? How does the study of law compare with other academic disciplines? What are the respective objects and methods? These questions are the focus of this course, which will be dealt with by reading and discussing classical texts in the philosophy of science, the humanities, and, of course, law.
Place of this course within the curriculum:

  • Compulsory course in the master Legal Research

 

Special Topics

Three Special Topics courses will be offered every year, each by a different (guest) lecturer, who will use his/her own research as the starting point. The topics of each course will be announced well in advance.
 

Foundations of quantum mechanics

This course explores the central issues in the foundations of quantum mechanics, in particular the related issues of contextuality and nonlocality on the one hand, and of the measurement problem and the problem of the classical regime on the other. We shall discuss the formalism of quantum mechanics, including density operators, measurement theory and decoherence; and the main foundational approaches to the theory, namely hidden variables theories, spontaneous collapse theories, and the Everett or many-worlds theory.

Science and the dilemmas of modernity

In this course we will study the role of science and of scientists in modern society. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this role became a topic of intense discussion. The development of science and technology in the previous century had been impressive, but what were the –intended or unintended – effects of that progress? How could the results of scientific research be incorporated in modern society and culture? We will especially look at the political side of these questions. Could the scientific method be applied to social and political problems? What role should scientific ‘experts’ play in governance, and if so, how did that role relate to democratic values? How did international politics and government policy influence scientific practice?
 
We will study these issues in several periods throughout the twentieth century, including the World Wars, the economic crisis of the 1930s, and the Cold War. We will study and discuss a body of literature, and all students will prepare a paper based on literature study. They will present their findings at the end of the course, both by oral presentation and a written paper. Throughout the research process, students will critically discuss each other's work.

Philosophy of the Modern Life Sciences

This course provides an overview of key philosophical issues in the modern life sciences. We begin with a broad historical overview of pivotal conceptual and theoretical developments from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, before looking in detail at several central topics in contemporary philosophy of the life sciences. Examples of these include debates on the nature of the Evolutionary Synthesis and contemporary challenges to it, conceptual issues in molecular and systems biology, the epistemology of data-intensive biology, and themes in the evolution of cognition and culture.

History of Medicine and the Biomedical Sciences

Period (from – till): February 2018 -  April 2018
 Faculty:
Prof. dr. F.G. Huisman, Julius Centre UMC Utrecht
Course description:
This is a nine-week course that is part of the Research Master History and Philosophy of Science, offered by the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. In principle, it is open to all MA students of the Graduate School of the Life Sciences.
Modern biomedical science and modern medicine originated - both epistemologically and institutionally – in the period between 1850 and 1950. The epoch not only witnessed the birth of the modern hospital and the laboratory, but there was a growing awareness that the state had an important role to play in public health as well. Taken together, the hospital, the laboratory and the caring state can be considered as the symbols of modernity.
 
Over the course of time, the medical scientist and the clinician have become valuable citizens, who transformed our health care system profoundly. At the same time, scientific progress has come with problems and drawbacks. In order to understand modern medicine and health care, it makes sense to take a look at its historical roots.
This course is an introduction to the birth of modern medicine, looking at developments over the course of the ‘long nineteenth century’. After an introduction of five weeks, you are expected to choose a topic that particularly interests you and write a paper about it. Topics may be chosen from any period between Classical Antiquity and contemporary biomedicine.
You will find out that history is not about presenting dry facts about the past, but rather about reflecting the human condition. Medical history is thinking about the ways in which man is dealing with health and illness, with pain and death – both in the past and in the present.

Literature/study material used:
- W.F. Bynum, Science and the practice of medicine in the nineteenth century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
- M. Jackson ed., The Oxford handbook of the history of medicine (Oxford: Oxford university press, 2011):
* R. Cooter, ‘Medicine and modernity’ (pp. 100-116)
* H.J. Cook, ‘Medicine in western Europe’ (pp. 190-207)
* M. Gorsky, ‘The political economy of health care’ (pp. 429-449)
* R. Bivins, ‘Histories of heterodoxy’ (pp. 578-597)
 - Chr. Hamlin, Cholera: the biography (Oxford UP, 2009).

Registration:
Please register via the study guide.
 
Mandatory for students in own Master’s programme:
N.A.
 
Optional for students in other GSLS Master’s programme:
This course is an elective course for all Master’s student of the Graduate School of Life Sciences. It is open to all students enrolled in the Research Master History and Philosophy of Science.

Prerequisite knowledge:
Bachelor’s degree and admission granted to a GSLS Master’s programme or Research Master History and Philosophy of Science.

Addiction and drugs

For centuries people have used substances to relax, to forget, to dare or to dream. Nicotine and alcohol are most common intoxicants. Around 85% Dutch over 16-year-olds drink a glass of alcohol regularly and 24% of them smoke. The remarkable consumption of psychoactive drugs can be traced in addiction statistics, but also in drug consumption statistics. Addiction treatment is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for treatment. But at what point does drinking, smoking, or any other substance use stop being social? And where does the problematic trajectory of persistent and unbridled use start? What causes one person to become an addict, whereas another person doesn’t? What makes it so difficult to kick the habit? What is the role of the pharmacist in all of this? In the context of this course, we will critically engage with these questions and provide practical handles for medical professionals to deal with addiction and substance use.

 

History and philosophy of biology

Ingangseisen
De cursus is alleen toegankelijk voor studenten in het derde studiejaar.
 
Studiepad
Deze cursus is van belang voor biologiestudenten met historische en wijsgerige belangstelling en voor alle studenten die overwegen een master te doen in History and Philosophy of Science en Science Education and Communication. De cursus maakt onderdeel uit van de minor Geschiedenis en Filosofie van de Natuurwetenschappen.
Inhoud
De cursus begint met de historische colleges. Deze vormen een zelfstandig onderdeel en leveren tegelijkertijd het basismateriaal voor het filosofische deel. We behandelen de periode ca. 1800 - ca 2000 en concentreren ons op de ontwikkeling van de biologie tot een aparte natuurwetenschappelijke discipline. Centraal in dit proces staat de wisselwerking van twee onderzoekprogramma’s, respectievelijk gekenmerkt door een beschrijvende en een experimentele (causaal-analytische) aanpak.
Onderwerpen die aan de orde komen zijn onder andere:

  • de rol van Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft bij het ontstaan van de teleomechanische onderzoeksrichting,
  • Cuvier en de formulering van het morfologische programma,
  • Darwins evolutietheorie als een eerste poging om de functionele en de morfologische invalshoek te verenigen,
  • de tegenstelling tussen ‘experimentalists’ en ‘naturalists’ rond 1900,
  • de opkomst van de synthetische evolutietheorie en het aandeel daarin van de verschillende biologische disciplines, en
  • de theoretische en methodologische grondslagen van de moleculaire biologie.

Het wijsgerige deel van de cursus begint met een korte inleiding in de algemene wetenschapsfilosofie, toegelicht aan de hand van voorbeelden uit de geschiedenis van de biologie. Centraal staat de vraag naar de legitimiteit van de status die natuurwetenschap heeft, ook in onze maatschappij: waarom hechten we waarde  aan wat 'de wetenschap' beweert?
Daarna gaan we in op de vraag naar het eigen karakter van de biologie. De manieren van theorievorming en de verklaringsprincipes in de biologie verschillen op het eerste gezicht nogal van die in de natuur- en scheikunde. Is dit een zwakte en zou biologie er naar moeten streven een ‘echte harde wetenschap’ te worden? Of heeft het te maken met het eigen karakter van het onderwerp van studie? Bijvoorbeeld met het specifieke karakter van het evolutieproces? Of met de complexiteit en organisatiegraad van het leven?
 
Zowel in de historische als in de wijsgerige colleges confronteren we je met verschillende visies op diverse onderwerpen. Hiermee verwerf je inzicht in en oordeelsvermogen over de werkwijze van de wetenschapshistoricus en –filosoof.
 
Werkvormen
Hoor- en werkcolleges Toetsing
Tentamen historisch deel, 50%, tentamen wijsgerig deel, 50% 

History of Modern Physics

In this course we will deal with major changes in Physics in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. On the one hand, we will review the changes in the nature, scope, objectives and the social significance of the field of Physics, on the other hand we will closely inspect the origins of both 'classic' and 'modern' theories such as the electromagnetic field theory, the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.body { font-size: 9pt;

20th-Century German Philosophy

In the German-speaking world, the 20th century was a period of enormously diverse and fruitful philosophical activity: the phenomenological and hermeneutical tradition of Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer; the analytical philosophy of Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle; the Frankfurt School tradition from Horkheimer and Adorno to Habermas and Honneth; and the influential work of Hannah Arendt.  Each year, this seminar will focus on one or two philosophers, focusing on particularly influential texts.  

This course is for RMA students in the Graduate School of Humanities and students in the History and Philosophy of Science. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 
 
Interested M.A. exchange students with a strong background in philosophy may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the RMA Philosophy coordinator:  j.h.anderson@uu.nl

Current Issues in Analytic Philosophy

This course will address a central topic in recent work in philosophy in the Analytic tradition.
The topic for 2017-18 is "Evolution and Disagreement: Debunking in Ethics and Religion.”
Both disagreements and evolutionary accounts of their origins raise skeptical challenges for moral and religious beliefs. Three different topics will be covered by the seminar: (1) implications of moral and religious disagreement; (2) conflicts between religious and non-religious sources of moral beliefs; (3) evolutionary debunking of moral and religious beliefs. Evolution and Disagreement. Debunking in Ethics and Religion

 This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy and MA Applied Ethics. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 

Logic and Computation

Students will learn how to answer one or more of the following research questions by means of an actor-based methodology in which each question will be addressed from multiple perspectives.+ What is a program?+ What is a computer?+ What are the practical implications of undecidability?+ What is the distinction between a stored-program computer and a universal Turing machine?+ What is the difference between a model (of computation) and a physical computer?  This is a reading &writing course. Attendance is obligatory. Homework will already be handed out during the first week of class with a firm deadline in the second week. Late arrivals in class will only be tolerated once; in other cases, they can lead to a deduction of the student’s final grade. The aim of the course on proofs as programs is to get an understanding of type theory and its role within logic, linguistics, and computer science and get acquainted to the Curry-Howard correspondence, relating types to propositions and programs to proofs. Students History and Philosophy of Science and Artificial Intelligence experiencing problems with enrollment, please contact the Student Desk Humanities, studentdesk.hum@uu.nl

This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy and Artificial Intelligents. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 
 

Professional Skills and Identity

During this course students gain insight in the various roles that they can play in society after they graduate, and what is needed – especially in terms of communication - to fulfil such a role succesfully. Inspiring lectures will be given by professionals out of the domains of research, science communication, science journalism, informal science education (including museums), science policy and business. They will share their experience in, for example, interacting with media, policy makers, private or public funding agencies, or various non-academic audiences. Special attention will be given to the roles they have taken upon themselves, and how their experiences in and with these roles have shaped their professional identity. What dilemmas did they encounter along the way? What advice can they give to students about the skills and knowledge they need to acquire? 
 
In addition, students will discuss some of the main documents that currently shape science education, - communication and - policy. They will learn to spot ‘problems’ that need to be solved and to identify opportunities for using their expertise. For one of the identified ‘problems’ they will develop, in teams of three or four students, a project plan in which they offer a strategy to solve the ‘problem’ and identify the stakeholders and the required approaches and products. In a final presentation, the teams will compete for the award: best plan of 2017.
 
The students will also write a personal development plan, based on the (guest) lectures, personal analysis and their experience in making the project plan. In this plan, they will outline their ideal future role in society and the concrete actions that are needed to realize that goal. They will explain how they want to further develop their professional identity, and why. To make a start with these plans, they have to write one text, such as an opinion article or a (section of a) research grant proposal, that fits into their personal development plan.
 

Science in Society

Many of the big developments in our current society are related to science and technology. We look at scientists to identify problems and propose solutions. New technologies have great impact on our daily lives, and often raise even bigger expectations about their future impact. At the same time, the position of (academic) science seems to be under pressure. The authority of scientists as public ‘experts’ is not self-evident anymore. Scientific knowledge has become a topic of public debates.
In this course we reflect on these changes and discuss the possible implications of these shifts for master students in their future professional life. We will use the models and approaches of Science and Technology Studies (STS, a.k.a. Social Studies of Science) as the foundation for these discussions. At the end of this course you will be able to formulate an informed answer to questions like: why and how do controversies around science and technology evolve? How can we define expertise and what different types of expertise can be distinguished? What is the role of experts in public debates? How are scientific concepts and theories used in public arguments by different stakeholders? What does this mean for the role of scientists and universities? How do I envision my role as a communicative professional?
 

Foundations of quantum mechanics

This course explores the central issues in the foundations of quantum mechanics, in particular the related issues of contextuality and nonlocality on the one hand, and of the measurement problem and the problem of the classical regime on the other. We shall discuss the formalism of quantum mechanics, including density operators, measurement theory and decoherence; and the main foundational approaches to the theory, namely hidden variables theories, spontaneous collapse theories, and the Everett or many-worlds theory.

Seminar History of mathematics

The Spring 2017 History of Mathematics Seminar will have the theme "History and Applications of Spherical Trigonometry". 
Spherical Trigonometry was initiated in (late) Greek Antiquity in order to study the geometrical aspects of astronomy, such as computations of the rising and setting times of the sun, stars and planets. It was developed further in the Middle Ages in Arabic-Islamic cultures, and later again in Europe where it became essential for navigation.
The introductory meetings of the course will be used to learn the basic framework such as some astronomical coordinate systems and the apparent motions of celestial bodies. Students will be assigned research topics and will report on their research in the remaining meetings (see standard description for the usual format).
​ Students are encouraged to present their work in the form of a workshop when applicable.​

Format:
The first few meetings will be used to introduce the students to the topic and to distribute research tasks among pairs of students. In the next meetings pairs of students report on their research. Each of these meetings is a mix of presentation, excercises and discussion, prepared en presided by the reporting pair. This pair also hands out a homework excercise for the other participants and grades the returned homework. Each pair will report twice and produce a written account (essay) of their research.

Grading:

20% homework
30% presentation
50% essay

Attendance is mandatory

Entry level:

General mathematics at bachelor level. History of Mathematics is preferred but not strictly necessary. 
The seminar is suitable for Bachelor Math students in their last year as well as Master students, HPM students with sufficient mathematical background (depending on the subject, please contact in advance) and historically interested Physics students.

Tutorial History & Philosophy of the Sciences

The lecturer and the student(s) will jointly determine a topic and reading list. They should also agree on the number of meetings and the requirements for the final examination (for example oral exam and/or paper). These details should be specified at the start of the tutorial and written up in a ´tutorial protocol´.
The lecturer and the students will meet regularly to discuss the readings and the paper (if applicable). The lecturer will provide individual guidance for reading and research. 

Philosophy of the social sciences: dare to doubt

The social sciences constitute of a fairly young discipline in the house of sciences (approximately one hundred fifty years old), and it is still strongly developing but also strongly fragmented. There are various sub-disciplines (such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.) but within these, there are also numerous ‘directions’, each with its own methodology and approaches. To researchers, but also to practitioners, it is no luxurious knowledge te be aware of these various views to, approaches of and assumptions in these various fields, since such knowledge will allow you to perceive the possibilities but also limitations of one’s own field.
Social scientists must takes sides on philosophical problems, whether they like it or not, even whether they know it or not, says Alexander Rosenberg. Why? Because the problems of the philosophy of social sciences are all versions a fundamental question: how to explain behavior (or individuals, groups, societies)? And yet these fundamental issues are rarely put to question. So we dare you! We dare you to doubt some of the most fundamental assumptions in your field. Because we believe that this allows you to make better choices.
Through questions such as about free will, causality or what constitutes a society, this course, which is open to all master students (not only of social sciences, but also to Descartes master students and all other interested students at master level) offers insight into the fundamental assumptions in the most important approaches in the social sciences, and it searches the strengths and weaknesses of the various models therein. What has agency got to do with free will, how does it relate to cause and effect, what is the nature of intentions? What role do these issues play in the rational-choice model, and to what extent is it a ‘social construct’?
For their essay, students will read and analyze from an array of preselected texts two classical papers (or chapters), about free will. They will compare and contrast the approaches used in these texts, and search them for underlying ‘logics’ and assumptions. The purpose of this exercise is to come to a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of particular approaches in the social sciences, so as to form a reasoned opinion on the possibilities and limitations of the social scientific field.

Academic skills
The following skills are tested in this course

  • Comparison of social scientific perspectives, assumptions and methodologies
  • Analysis of social scientific presuppositions
  • Reflection on own (philosophical) assumptions

History and Philosophy of Objectivity

The course is devoted to a study of Daston's and Galison's book Objectivity. We shall ask whether their analysis of 'objectivity' is well-founded, which requires a close look at their sources, too. A key question will be whether their approach and their results can be used to also analyze other sources, and can be transferred to other phenomena in the sciences and humanities. We also intend to enlarge the historical scope by including sources and topics from ancient philosophy and science. 

Career orientation:
Interdisciplinary reflection

This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 

Interested M.A. exchange students with a strong background in philosophy may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the RMA Philosophy coordinator:  j.h.anderson@uu.nl

Topics in German Idealism

This course is devoted to a key moment in the history of philosophy, the period of “German idealism” – i.e. the developments that were initiated by Kant, and by the attempts to constructively build forth upon Kant’s ideas, as developed by, among others, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In recent years, the label “German Idealism” has fallen into discredit, and has been replaced by the more open term “Classical German philosophy” – indicating that philosophy in this period, and in particular the reactions upon Kant’s philosophy, have been much broader in content than the label “idealism” indicates.
The present course takes up the challenge that lies in this terminological development. We’ll look into the (highly polemical, and thus also very entertaining) debate about the merits (or shortcomings!) of an “idealism” in this period. Texts will include Kant’s “refutation of idealism” in his Critique of Pure Reason and the review that stimulated Kant to write this “refutation”; Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi’s announcement of a novel form of “realism”, and Fichte’s and Schelling’s projects for integrating idealist and realist elements in their philosophy. Investigating links to today’s debates about realism and anti-realism will be actively encouraged.
A reader with the relevant texts (in English translation) will be made available, together with additional materials form my current research project on realism and empiricism around 1800.

Introductory reading:
Zöller, Günter (2000). German Realism: The self-limitation of idealist thinking in Fichte, Schelling, and Schopenhauer. In Karl Ameriks (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 200--218.
Beiser, Frederick (2002). German Idealism. The Struggle against Subjectivism, 1781-1801 Cambridge, Mass. / London: Harvard UP.
 

Tutorial Philosophy 1

Tutorials are organized on a range of specialized topics, tailored to the current research activity research staff in philosophy and the research interests of students.  In regular sessions, a small group of students meet with the tutorial leader to discuss research problems and challenges on a topic in the instructor's field of expertise. Using close readings and short presentations regarding a substantial reading list of philosophical texts, a tutorial provides a thorough introduction to the current praxis of research in a particular subject. The tutorial concludes with a final research paper on a topic covered in the tutorial.
 
Topics for each year are determined in the first two weeks of Block 1.  The dates and locations of Tutorial meetings are flexible and are determined jointly by the students and staff for the tutorial. Details are specified at the start of the tutorial and written up in a “Tutorial Protocol," which is available in the RMA Philosophy Handbook.

The number of EC credits awarded for a Tutorial varies (5 EC, 7.5 EC or 10 EC), depending on the workload, as established in the Tutorial Protocol for the tutorial in question.
 
Students in the M.A. “History and Philosophy of Science” who are interested in enrolling in or organizing a tutorial (which can be for 7,5 EC) should contact the HPS programme coordinator prior to the enrollment period for the relevant semester.

Interested M.A. exchange students with a strong background in philosophy may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the RMA Philosophy coordinator:  j.h.anderson@uu.nl
 

Science and the public. The making, distribution and reception of science

Science has always been dependent on society. It is supported to the degree that governments, the public, interest groups, or other agencies recognize its value. The public image of science is therefore of vital importance to the continuing existence of science. But where do public images of science come from? Partly at least from the scientists themselves. Scientists use a wide variety of strategies, such as popularization, to influence this image. One may ask how effectively they communicate scientific knowledge and images of science. And to what degree does the image conveyed in popular science correspond to actual scientific practice? The relation between science and the public is one of strong mutual influence. Some historians have suggested that public attitudes shape the self-image of scientists to the point that they are willing to revise the core-values of their disciplines. There are sociologists of science who claim that knowledge is only established once the public are convinced. To make matters even more complicated, it should always be kept in mind that at any time there is not one monolithic science and one undifferentiated audience. Moreover both science and society have changed tremendously in the course of history. This course studies the history of their co-construction. 

Master’s thesis (37.5 or 52.5 EC)

You should write a substantial thesis (eq. 7 courses), potentially publishable, based on your own original research. Languages: English or Dutch. It must be approved by the thesis supervisor (normally a member of the Descartes Centre) and a second reader chosen by the examination committee. After approval, you must hold a public colloquium about your thesis.

Examples of research topics:

  • Why read the Book of Nature when you can watch the movie? The curious past and future of natural history museums
  • Struggling for Objectivity: Theory and Empirical Research in the Early Frankfurt School
  • Cassirer’s conception of causality and determinism and the responses of contemporary physicists
  • On the Role of Energy Conservation in the Victorian Conflict Between Science and Religion
  • Reception of the General Theory of Relativity in Belgium
  • History of a Mental Hospital in the Netherlands Indies, 1923-1942
  • Cosmological Themes in Early Modern Dutch Literary Texts
  • 20th Century Nutrition Education in the Netherlands
  • The historical relation between explosive technology and terrorism
  • Grounding Artificial Intelligence through motivated learning inspired by biology
  • What is there to be realist about?