The University of Bristol ranks among the top European institutions in the philosophy and history of science. We currently hold four major research grants to study Darwinism and Rational Choice, Epistemic Utility Theory, Homotopy Type Theory and a philosophy and medicine project on breathlessness. Our expertise is in a broad range of areas related to the philosophy and history of the specific sciences, including physics, biology, mathematics, logic, medicine and psychology.
Our MA draws on these strengths. It is intended both for students who have a first degree in philosophy who wish to specialise in philosophy and/or history of science at a higher level, and also for individuals with a background in pure science who wish to make a transition to philosophy and history of science or to explore foundational issues within the sciences.
The emphasis of the programme is on philosophical issues arising from specific scientific disciplines, with special emphasis on physics, biology and mathematics. The history of science is studied in terms of the philosophical debate about the nature of scientific method and knowledge.
You will be an active member of the department’s flourishing research culture. All students are encouraged to participate in both the weekly departmental research seminar and the weekly Philosophy and History of Science research seminar, which often features well-known scholars in the field, from Bristol and beyond. There is also a weekly postgraduate seminar, where you are encouraged to present your own work, and where you will learn to develop argumentative strategies in a supportive environment.
You will take six taught units (two compulsory and four optional).
- Scientific Methodology and Epistemology
This unit concerns core topics in scientific epistemology and metaphysics. The unit is examined on the basis of an essay of 5,000-6,000 words. As with all assessed essays, you may meet with a supervisor to discuss your work and to receive feedback on a draft essay.
- Philosophical Writing and Research Seminar
This unit involves a two-hour, weekly seminar developing ideas and the bibliographical and writing skills necessary for philosophical research. The unit is assessed by seminar contributions and presentations.
- History of Science
- Philosophy and History of Mathematics
- Philosophy and History of Medicine
- Philosophy of Biology
- Philosophy of Physics
- Philosophy of Psychology
- An individual, supervised research project
Please be aware that optional units may vary from year to year.
Satisfactory completion of semesters one and two allows you to progress to writing a dissertation of up to 15,000 words on an approved topic of your choice. The dissertation is your chance to produce an extended piece of philosophical research that can act as preparation for a graduate research degree. You will have supervisory meetings with a member of staff who will also provide feedback on a draft of your work.