PHIL20620 Philosophy of Social Science

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module links the three elements of PPE by considering the nature of social science generally, looking in particular at the question of whether Economics and Political Science should be thought of as sciences at all. We will investigate the concept of utility based on preference theory that is employed in Welfare Economics, and we will ask whether the economic conception of rationality based on maximization of expected utility makes sense. We will also consider social ontology (the nature of social reality), social epistemology and epistemic injustice. The second half of the module (weeks 7-12) switches to political philosophy. The focus will be the political theory known as liberalism. The main liberal authors considered will be W. v. Humboldt, I. Berlin, and J. Rawls. Liberal political philosophy has received a great deal of hostile critical attention: many of the most significant contributions to political philosophy arise as a reaction to it. This module will track those reactions: communitarianism (M. Sandel), feminism (S.M. Okin), the historical school (Q. Skinner), realism (R. Geuss), and socialism (G.A. Cohen). We will endeavour to examine as many of these different interpretative approaches to political philosophy as time permits.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of the module students will:
(i) have an understanding of the central ideas in the philosophy of social science;
(ii) have a philosophical understanding of some fundamental ideas used in Economics and in Social/Political Theory;
(iii) be able to develop their own arguments about how to employ these fundamental ideas;
(iv) be able to express these arguments in a clear, coherent and well-informed way.

Indicative Module Content:

Philosophy of Economics; Utility; Rational Choice Theory; Moral Hazard; Social Science methodology; Political Philosophy; LIberalism.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning








Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures; tutorials; independent learning in preparation for short essays and exams. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Additional Information:
This module is only available for stage 2 PPE students.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Written reflection on philosophy of economics - 750-900 words. Week 4 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Written reflection on philosophy of economics - 750-900 words Week 7 n/a Graded No


Examination: Final 2 hour exam 2 questions in Philosophy of Politics 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the first two assignments is provided in the form of comments and a grade within two weeks of the submission deadline.

Name Role
Professor Maeve Cooke Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr John McGuire Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Brian O'Connor Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ranier Abengana Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Fri 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Fri 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Fri 11:00 - 11:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Fri 14:00 - 14:50