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Decisions in society have important knowledge-related and ethical dimensions. They affect people's obligations, rights and liberties, and they are based on scientific findings and expert advice. Studying reliable and responsible ways of decision-making requires philosophical reflection from various perspectives: we have to reason about human rationality, morality, political institutions and the science/society interface.
The English-taught MA specialization in Philosophy, Science and Society develops your reasoning skills in these areas and enables you to critically analyze urgent problems within modern democracies. The program adopts an interdisciplinary angle where cutting-edge philosophical research is inspired by findings from psychology, economics and cognitive science. Upon graduating, you will be an expert on ethical and epistemic aspects of social decision-making and you will be able to demonstrate how philosophical analysis contributes to solving societal challenges. Moreover, the Tilburg University specialization in Philosophy, Science and Society offers you:
* Teaching by highly international and experienced faculty. The lecturers in the Philosophy, Science and Society MA specialization have a strong international teaching record, including countries such as Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. There are also guest lecturers from Australia, Canada and the US.
* At the forefront of international research. Your teachers are also internationally leading researchers. The Tilburg Center for Logic, General Ethics and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS), the philosophy department's research platform, regularly organizes international conferences, workshops and seminars that you are invited to attend free of charge.
* Research-Based Learning. Our MA program is committed to staying not a single inch behind the most recent state-of-the-art. From the first day of your stay in Tilburg, you will be confronted with the latest philosophical research, and you will assist your teachers in developing and testing new research results.
* Innovative Methods. The program combines traditional philosophical methods (conceptual analysis, dialectical reasoning, case studies, thought experiments) with recently developed approaches, such as experimental philosophy, simulations and abstract modeling of philosophical problems.
Four general courses study the human mind from a philosophical perspective and relate it to the society we live in. These courses cover the following subject areas:
Ethics: In this course, students acquire knowledge and understanding of big ethical questions of modern democracies. Special attention is devoted to the issue of individual rights and liberties in times where governments make use of big data to watch over citizens. To what extent do such surveillance methods violate basic individual rights and undermine our democracies? The course presents students with the tools to analyze such dilemmas and to develop solution proposals.
Rationality: In this course, students learn to master and to fruitfully combine a variety of concepts of human rationality. This includes traditional philosophical analyses where moral requirements are taken as rationality standards (Kant), but also scientifically oriented approaches. Ideas like homo economicus or recent developments such as bounded rationality are examined from a philosophical perspective.
Political Philosophy: This course familiarizes students with the legal and political dimension of modern democracies, focusing on issues pertaining to political representation, sovereignty and collective identity. Tensions between national sovereignty and supranational legal orders, such as that of the European Union, take central stage. This involves in particular the issue of decision-making and accountability on the level of supranational institutions.
Philosophy of Mind and Human Action: Are humans nothing but an animal rationale? Students learn the implications of insights from neuroscience for issues such as consciousness, decision-making and free will. After following the course, they are able to critically evaluate the arguments put forward in such discussions.
This MA program provides four specialized courses. On request, one of them may be replaced by another MA level course, either in the philosophy or in a related discipline. In addition, there is a tutorial that familiarizes students with the scientific philosophy approach.
Logic, Language and Information: What are the basic tools required for studying human knowledge? This course familiarizes students with techniques for modeling reasoning about knowledge as well as the emergence of conventions, fashions and social norms. Students will also be trained in the techniques necessary for modeling ethical reasoning, and are introduced to the state-of-the-art research on such models. The course is multidisciplinary in combining techniques from logic, linguistics and economics (game theory).
Social Epistemology and Group Agency: How should groups resolve disagreements? How can they be more than the sum of its parts, acquire collective knowledge and take collective responsibilities (e.g., as a firm, or as state representatives)? The students will learn to critically evaluate various characterizations of group agency. They also investigate how voting, opinion polling and deliberation procedures can ameliorate group reasoning and decision-making. Finally, the advantages and drawbacks of these different procedures are weighed against each other.
Moral Reasoning and Decision-Making: Why do we leave tips at restaurants, but not at the grocery store? Why were women on board of the Titanic more likely to survive than men? These questions combine issues in moral and evolutionary psychology with substantive ethical concerns. Students gain understanding of central theories of moral reasoning and decision-making as well as of recent developments in experimental philosophy. This knowledge is transferred to analyzing complex ethical problems in society: people's moral obligations are reappraised in the light of these psychological findings.
Science and Democracy: What is the role of science in a democratic society? This course explores the ambivalent relationship between scientists and policy-makers: the latter often defer on the former's knowledge, but they also steer and regulate the scientific agenda. What do these interactions mean for the objectivity and authority of scientific research? Can science also turn into a political oppression instrument? Students learn how to critically evaluate such complex questions and to develop solution proposals for concrete problems at the interface of science and society, e.g., in scientific risk assessment.
Additional Offers (non-compulsory)
Tutorial on Scientific Philosophy
On a bi-weekly basis, TiLPS researchers introduce themselves to the students and explain how philosophy can be done in a scientific manner. This involves brief introductions to conceptual analysis, formal modeling, agent-based simulation, designing philosophical experiments and historical case studies.
You are also invited to attend the TiLPS research seminars in Logic and Language, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science and Ethics, where renowned international speakers as well as local faculty regularly present their research.