PY0570 - Philosophy of Science

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn how the empirical approach, as you know it in psychology and the broader sciences, came to be, and this will mean you going back in time to explore the history of certain philosophical movements. You will learn about philosophical movements such as logical positivism, as the embryo of the empirical method as we know it today, and will learn how movements such as rationalism and external skepticism, as alternatives to empiricism, call into question the way understand psychological and scientific research today. You will use this knowledge to probe classic debates throughout the history of science, and one of these debates, focusing on whether individual ethics rights are less valuable than collective group gain, taps into one key area of psychology as recognized by the British Psychological Society. You will learn to take empirical evidence from psychology and related sciences, and, by using regular in class debates and discussions, apply it to support your arguments and positions. You will learn, through the series of lectures, skills of critical thinking, reasoning, logic, and contemplation, and, through assessments, clear and effective communication.

How will I learn on this module?

You will attend weekly sessions. It is expected that in advance of these weekly sessions, in order that you engage more fully in the debates and discussions that take place in them, you will complete preparatory reading. The sessions will provide you a platform to discuss and debate contentious and classic topics through the history of science, with eLearning technologies like PowerPoints and polling software being used to support your learning. These activities will help you to enhance your knowledge and skills (e.g., critical thinking, communication). You will be expected to complete a good amount of independent study, in the form of reading psychological and philosophical texts, and will be expected, through attending weekly sessions, to contribute to group debates and discussions. Other e-learning technologies such as discussion boards, electronic reading lists, and group chats, available to you outside of taught sessions, will also be used to support you on the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported in a range of ways, and these include weekly sessions, use of e-technologies (e.g., PowerPoint), and directed reading via online reading lists. Discussion boards, set up on the module BB site, will allow you to chat and debate about the topics, and, for assessments, ask questions of other students and staff. BB Collaborate, allowing for smaller breakout groups, will also be used to support out of class discussions. Panopto, offering recordings of all lectures, will also be used, and module staff, through posting regular office hours, will provide you opportunities for one-to-one or small group tutorials. Module assessments will be submitted electronically, via turnitin.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MK1: Key debates within psychology and the wider sciences will be scrutinized, and critical analysis of these debates, through consideration of the reliability of the empirical method, will be undertaken.
MK2: Empirical evidence, taken from psychological studies and related sciences, will be used to probe classic debates in psychology, and will inform your opinions on these topics.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MIP1: Individual ethics rights, as one of the key debates in psychology, will be explored, and your awareness of the ethical context of psychology, through consideration of the empirical evidence, will grow.

MIP2: You will take charge of your own career development learning, through critical self-evaluation and reflection on the relevance of the module for career enhancement and future learning

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MPV1: You will develop and reinforce the characteristics of a Northumbria graduate by building research skills to contribute to knowledge generation and dissemination, demonstrating awareness of ethical principles.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment
Students will engage in group debates each week, and the feedback coming from these debates, provided by peers and staff, mean students are benefitting from regular formative assessment.

Summative Assessment:
The assessment consists of two individual pieces of work:
1. A written assignment (maximum 3000 words) asking students to take one of the classic debates covered in the module and, imagining themselves as a participant on both sides of the debate, and using evidence for both sides, produce a debate transcript.
This will be worth 90% of the module mark (MK1; MK2; MIP1; MPV1).

2. The second assessment is a self-reflective account in which you will be asked to consider how this module has influenced your employability and future career (MIP2). This will be worth 10% of the module mark (500 words).
For the first summative assessment, individual feedback, of at least two constructive points and one positive point, will be provided electronically via turnitin. Cohort feedback, picking up on commonly recurring themes and issues, will also be provided.

Feedback and marks for the self-reflective assessment will only be available through one to one meetings with your personal tutor, and you will be expected to arrange a meeting.





Module abstract

The history of the scientific method (i.e., empiricism), as the approach psychologists and researchers in the broader sciences use to conceptualize studies and understand their findings, will be covered on this module. You will learn how the scientific method, as we know it in psychology and the broader sciences, came to be, and this will mean you exploring philosophical movements such as rationalism, logical positivism, external skepticism, empirical realism and reductive materialism. You will use empirical findings from psychological research, and from research in related sciences of biology, neurophysiology and physics, to probe classic debates; these will include questions such as: a) Are humans really robots? (e.g., Do we have free will?), b) Can robots be humans? (What is consciousness?), c) How did we get here? (Can Religion and Science co-exist?), d) Where do we go? (What do we know about an afterlife?), and e) How do we behave? (Do individual rights trump collective group gain?). This final debate, grounded in questions of individual and collective rights, will mean you looking into the history of ethics in psychology and the sciences. The module has been designed with employability skills in mind, and it is expected you will learn, through regular class debates and discussions, skills of critical thinking and reasoning, and, through the assessments, effective written communication.

Course info

UCAS Code C800

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy