Philosophy of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Methodology courses and philosophy of science
busts from antiquity


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.

Key Facts & Figures

Instruction language

What will you achieve?

  • After course completion you 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).
  • After the course you 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)
  • After course completion you 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)
  • After course completion you 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)
  • After course completion you 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)
  • After course completion youare 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)


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.

Session descriptions

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?


  • Portrait of Christian van der Veeke
    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.


Facts & Figures

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School

  • €575,- for non-members

  • consult our enrolment policy for more information

Not applicable
Offered by
Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities
Course type
Instruction language

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes