Philosophy (120 EC): Philosophy of Natural Sciences, 2016-2017

Philosophy of Natural Sciences is a specialisation of the MA Philosophy 120 EC.

Generally, students will be enrolled in two master’s programmes: the MA Philosophy 120 EC, and a master’s programme in one of the natural sciences.

Structure of the programme

The two-year programme consists of the following components:

MSc courses in the chosen discipline outside philosophy (for a total of 40 EC)

Students complete 500-level MSc courses in one of the natural sciences for a total of 40 EC. In principle, these courses should form a coherent combination of subjects. These non-philosophical courses will be included in both master’s programmes.

Specialist courses (for a total of 20 EC)

Students complete two mandatory specialist courses in Philosophy of Natural Sciences (10 EC each). Please be informed that there will be one specialist course on offer each year.

Optional courses in Philosophy (for a total of 40 EC)

Students select four optional courses in philosophy (each 10 EC), which can be spread over two years. Topics of the optional courses on offer are varying each year.

Master’s thesis, thesis seminar, and exam (20 EC)

The MA programme will be concluded by a master’s thesis of 20 EC. The master’s thesis is an independent academic contribution to philosophy in the field of Philosophy of Natural Sciences. Students follow the compulsory thesis seminar during the semester in which the thesis is being written. Before graduation students sit for a final exam for which they defend their thesis.

Planning

As students will generally be enrolled in two master’s programmes the MA Philosophy 120 EC requires a careful planning. Please see More info for additional information about the planning. Students are strongly advised to set up their studyplan in consultation with the Coordinator of Studies before the start of the programme.

Further information

For additional information concerning the objectives of the programme, the master’s thesis and requirements for graduation, see More info.

First Year / Second Year

More info

Description of the specialisation
Objectives and achievement levels
Programme
Planning
Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation
Contact data

Description of the specialisation

Philosophy of Natural Sciences

The specialisation Philosophy of Natural Sciences covers ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues arising from the natural sciences.

Ontological issues pertain to the ultimate constitution of the world studied by natural scientists. What sorts of objects are acknowledged by the natural sciences? How are these objects defined and identified? In what senses can they be said to be real?

Epistemological issues pertain to the nature and limits of our knowledge of the natural world. How are concepts related to the world? What is the status of theoretical entities? What is the difference between observation and experiment?

Lastly, methodological issues pertain to the practice and dynamics of research in the natural sciences, including the interpretation of empirical data, theory formulation, and hypothesis test. A particular focus is the diversity of the natural sciences, which range from law formulating sciences such as physics to historical sciences such as earth science. A selection of these topics is selected for discussion each academic year.

Objectives and achievement levels

Objectives

  1. with respect to knowledge, understanding and their applications
    a. to impart scholarly knowledge, insight, methods, and skills in the field of philosophy, building on the foundations laid in the BA-programme in Philosophy of a Specific Discipline, or the pre-master Philosophy);
    b. to impart a scholarly attitude, which is characterized by the student’s capacity to:
  • engage in individual and independent academic thought and action;
  • analyse complex problems;
  • write academic reports;
  • apply specialist skills in an intellectual and social context.
  1. with respect to a career
  • to prepare students for a profession in the field of the specific discipline for which philosophical knowledge, insight and skills have added value;
  • to prepare students for other professions in which philosophical knowledge, insight and skills have added value;
  • to prepare students to some extent for an academic career and for postgraduate education, in particular for a PhD project;
  • to prepare students for any non-academic career for which general academic skills such as abstraction skills, heuristic capability and creativity are required.

Achievement levels

Graduates of the programme will have reached the following achievement levels:

  1. With regard to knowledge, understanding and their application, graduates
  • possess knowledge and understanding in the field of the history, foundations, methodology and/or ethics of the discipline that are based on but surpass the level of the bachelor’s degree in philosophy of a certain specific discipline;
  • possess knowledge and understanding with regard to the social and cultural meaning of philosophy in general and the philosophy of the discipline in particular;
  • possess knowledge and understanding of the main elements of philosophy of the discipline and the problems, methods and key terms of these elements. This knowledge and understanding surpasses in level that acquired on a bachelor’s programme in philosophy of a particular specific discipline and forms the basis of the independent development and application of original ideas, understanding and analyses;
  • are aware of the most recent discussion in the field of their philosophical specialisation and be able to make their own contribution;
  • based on the acquired knowledge and understanding, are able to make a contribution to the current discussion within the field of philosophy of the discipline and within new and complex contexts related to philosophy;
  1. With regard to making judgements, graduates
  • on the basis of the deep knowledge of philosophy acquired on the programme, are able to deal with complex philosophical problems and formulate judgments based on information from different kinds of source even if this information is incomplete or uncertain;
  • have a realistic view of the reliability of their own conclusions;
  • are able to integrate different approaches to philosophical questions and/or compare them with each other.
  1. With regard to communication, graduates
  • are trained in giving a clear explanation of philosophical problems, ideas, theories, interpretations and arguments. This is for both a specialist and non-specialist audience and in English as well as, for Dutch-speaking students, in Dutch;
  • are capable of writing philosophical papers that show the potential to approximate the level of articles in national and international academic journals in the field of philosophy.
  1. With regard to learning skills, graduates
  • have developed learning skills that allow them to continue their study of philosophy largely independently within a research context and draw up a research proposal for a PhD.

Programme

Specialisations

The two-year MA programme in Philosophy (120 EC) offers five specialisations, in which students are able to combine the study of philosophy with a non-philosophical discipline:

  • Philosophy of Humanities
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Philosophy of Natural Sciences
  • Philosophy of Political Science
  • Philosophy of Psychology

Combining two master’s programmes

Students are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in the discipline of the chosen specialisation, which enables them to follow the non-philosophical component of their master’s programme at the faculty or department of the chosen discipline. Students who have already obtained a master’s degree in the chosen (non-philosophical) discipline are normally exempted from this part of the programme.

Full-time and part-time

The programme offers both full-time and part-time tuition. The part-time programme is offered as a daytime course. The full-time programme spans two years (including the non-philosophical component), the part-time programme spans three years. The only difference between the two programmes is in the length of time required for their completion; in content they are identical.

Structure

The MA Philosophy (120 EC) consists of five components:

  • 40 EC / MA or MSc courses in the chosen discipline outside philosophy
  • 20 EC / Two specialist courses in philosophy of the chosen discipline
  • 40 EC / Four optional courses in philosophy
  • 20 EC / Master’s thesis

It is required that students choose their optional courses in philosophy from the courses that are selected for their specialisation, and that the subject of their master’s thesis belongs to the field of their specialisation. Furthermore, the 500-level courses outside philosophy (for a total of 40 EC) must be completed in the academic discipline specified in the name of their specialisation.

Internship

A maximum of 10 EC of the non-philosophical component of the MA programme in Philosophy 120 EC can be replaced by an internship. If more than 10 EC have been obtained for the internship the extra credits will be recorded as extra-curricular components on the diploma supplement.

Planning

A possible planning of the two-year programme is presented below. Please note that the sequence of the various components of individual programmes may deviate from the scheme proposed due to the availability of courses in a particular semester, or to the extent to which the non-philosophical part of the programme has already been completed. Keep in mind that there will be one specialist course on offer each year, therefore one of these mandatory courses must be completed in the first year and the other one in the second year.

As students will generally be enrolled in two master’s programmes the MA Philosophy 120 EC requires a careful planning. Students are strongly advised yo discuss their programme with the Coordinator of Studies before the start of their first semester.

First Year

  • 30 EC / MSc courses in one of the natural sciences
  • 10 EC / Specialist course Philosophy of Natural Sciences
  • 20 EC / Two optional courses in philosophy (each 10 EC)

Second Year

  • 10 EC / MSc courses in one of the natural sciences
  • 10 EC / Specialist course Philosophy of Natural Sciences
  • 20 EC / Two optional courses in philosophy (each 10 EC)
  • 20 EC / MA thesis and Thesis Seminar

Depending on the number of enrolments the specialist courses will be offered either as a full seminar or as a series of tutorial sessions.

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

Requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 120 EC programme and have completed their final thesis as a component of that programme. The master’s thesis is an independent academic contribution to philosophy in the field of the chosen specialisation. The student is required to write a master’s thesis in the second year of the MA Philosophy (120 EC) – normally in the last semester.

Attainment levels

The master’s thesis should clearly show that the student meets the attainment levels which have been set for this programme in terms of knowledge and skills. More specifically, the master’s thesis and the working method for the thesis should demonstrate that the student:

  • has acquired knowledge of systematic philosophy and its history, and of recent developments in contemporary philosophy, that is founded upon and extends that associated with the bachelor’s level, and that provides a basis for originality in developing and applying original ideas and analyses;
  • knows the discussions in the forefront of their field, and is able to take part in them;
  • is able to contribute to current discussions on philosophy and in new and complex contexts related to philosophy;
  • is able to handle philosophical complexity and to formulate judgments based on information from diverse sources, even if this information is limited or incomplete;
  • has a realistic view of the tenability and reliability of his/her own conclusions;
  • is able to integrate or confront different approaches to philosophical questions;
  • in short, is able to write philosophical papers, the quality of which comes close to that of articles in refereed journals in the field.

Formal requirements and assessment criteria

The thesis for the MA Philosophy (120 EC) has a workload of 20 ECs, and the length of the thesis is normally approximately 20,000 words. Depending on the subject, the student and the supervisor may agree on a different length. Other formal requirements that the thesis must satisfy are listed in the Protocol Graduation Phase

Agreements and supervision

The thesis must be supervised by a staff member of the Leiden Institute for Philosophy. The agreements relating to the planning and supervision of the writing of the MA thesis are set out in writing by the student and the supervisor in the Agreements relating to the MA thesis form-. The agreements include details on the choice of subject of the thesis, on the frequency of sessions with the thesis supervisor and the manner of supervision, and on the phasing of the research leading up to the thesis.

Final examination

The master’s thesis shall be defended as part of the final examination. The grade of the master’s thesis is determined by the examiners after the questioning (defense of the thesis) in the MA examination. Graduation is possible at any time during the academic year, except for July. However, graduation within the current academic year is only guaranteed when the final draft of the thesis has been approved of by the supervisor and sent to the Board of Examiners not later on June 15th.

Contact data

Specialisation coordinator

Dr. J.W. (James) McAllister
For questions relating to the contents of the programme.

Coordinator of Studies

Coordinator of Studies of the MA Philosophy 120 EC.
For questions relating to programme requirements, planning, regulations, graduation, etc.

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