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Sciences and Humanities


Admission requirements

Bachelor degree (completed)


Universities belong to the oldest still existing organisations in the world. For over 800 years they have been centres of knowledge production, education, and reflection. Modern universities exhibit a high degree of specialisation within the different subject areas, usually organised in a handful faculties.

In an influential lecture from 1959, the British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow has pointed at the differences in "culture" between disciplines that fall under the sciences and those that fall under the humanities. Today we might add the social sciences as a separate category and distinguish between alpha, beta, and gamma.

In this course we identify some of the "cultural differences" between the different fields in terms of their methods, relationships to society, and epistemological values, i.e. their attitude towards knowledge-finding and "the truth." On the other hand, we investigate what is shared between fields and how the forces of multiple disciplines can be joined to see even further.

A wide range of thinkers and philosopical movements will be discussed, ranging from Descartes to Rorty, the Wiener Kreiss to Feyerabend, Hildegard von Bingen to Newton, and Cavendish to Wittgenstein and Anscombe––to name just a few. Also, attention will be paid to different forms of knowledge-gathering and -sharing, using short stories from e.g. Kafka as well as the film The Matrix.

Course objectives

Students are able to:

  • reflect on the alpha, beta, and gamma division in academia in terms of methods, relationship to society, and epistemological value;

  • describe various developments in the history of science and their implications, most notably the Copernican Revolution;

  • define the field of epistemology and characterise different positions in historical as well as contemporary debates;

  • formulate their own position in epistemological debates and support this with relevant arguments;

  • reflect on alternative ways of knowledge-production and -sharing, such as through (science-)fiction.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, Seminar

Assessment method

Assessment is based on three elements: 1) homework assignments, 2) a written exam, and 3) a small end project that can take the form of an essay, fictional work, small documentary, podcast, computer programme, or physical installation.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the elements mentioned above (homework 20%, exam 40%, small end project 40%). To pass the course, the grade for the exam must be 5.5 or higher, and the grade for the homework and project must be 5.0 or higher.

Soon after the announcement of the written exam result and as early as possible before the resit, the corrected exam will be given to the participants for inspection and a discussion of the exam can take place on a student's request. Deadlines for homework and end project resits are determined on an individual basis, but in all cases the maximum grade is lowered to a 8.0.

Reading list

Full reference list will be disseminated through Blackboard/Brightspace. Articles and book chapters that cannot be found online are available in the class library in Snellius 413.

In addition, all students are expected to buy a copy of the following book, as we read it almost cover-to-cover:

A.F. Chalmers. 2013. What is that thing called science? 4th Ed. Queensland, Queensland UP.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Contact the lecturer(s) for course specific questions, and the programme's coordinator for questions regarding admission and/or registration.


Elective, external and exchange students (other than Media Technology students) need to be admitted to the course before registration due to limited capacity. Contact the programme's coordinator to request admission; include a short description of your course interest and state your current study programme in your correspondence.