Academic Year 2023/2024 - Teacher: CHIARA MILITELLO

Expected Learning Outcomes

After following the course, the student will possess a solid knowledge of the main epistemological theories, something that is needed to understand the scientific status of the various psychological disciplines. The study of epistemology will also contribute, in a decisive way, to the acquisition of the critical spirit that is necessary both to begin a self-learning path and to explain the methodological assumptions of one’s field studies and of the research reported in the scientific literature.
The student will be familiar with the themes and vocabulary of philosophy, which will allow him to understand the philosophical debates that most interest psychologists. Vocabulary is particularly important, because the student will use a specialized vocabulary in this subject, just as in the other subjects he studies. The study of epistemology, or philosophy of science, will also guarantee the possession of the awareness of the complexity of the phenomena that are studied by biological and human sciences (to both of which psychology belongs in many ways) and of the problems that, consequently, are posed to those who try to “map” these phenomena. Finally, the study of the philosophy of science will provide the student with interdisciplinary skills.

Course Structure

The teaching will be carried out through lectures, a method that will ensure the transmission of contents and methods. In order to achieve the objectives relating to learning and communication skills, questions for clarification and deepening by the students will be encouraged during the lessons. Lessons will include guided reading of philosophical texts, in order to develop the ability to understand this kind of writings.

Required Prerequisites

No propaedeutic knowledge is required.

Attendance of Lessons

Attendance is strongly recommended, as the professor’s exposition of epistemological theories and explanation of philosophical texts greatly facilitates the students’ acquisition of the content.

Detailed Course Content

The epistemological problems of psychology. The epistemological foundations of the main theoretical paradigms in psychology. Behaviourism. Cognitivism. Social constructionism. Relational systemic approach. Psychoanalysis. The reductionist image of the human being and dualist emergentism. Mind-body relationship. The theories of David Hume. Hume’s innovative evolutionary hypotheses. Evolutionary continuity between animals and humans. Empiricism and the origin of ideas. Distinction between impressions and ideas. Complex and simple Ideas. Perception and scepticism. Causation and probable reasoning. Belief and imagination. External world and personal identity. Hume’s philosophical approach and sceptical concerns.

Textbook Information

1. Marco Castiglioni, Epistemologia e psicologia, EDUCatt 2001, 128 pages.
2. Alessandra Attanasio, Gli istinti della ragione, Bibliopolis 2002, 372 pages.
3. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, book I, roughly 260 pages.

Course Planning

 SubjectsText References
1The epistemological status of psychology1 (prima parte, capp. 1 e 6)
2Theoretical and practical sciences1 (prima parte, cap. 2)
3Epistemological models of the theoretical sciences1 (prima parte, cap. 3)
4Epistemological models of the practical sciences1 (prima parte, cap. 4)
5Epistemological models of psychology1 (prima parte, cap. 5)
6 Freud and psychoanalysis 1 (seconda parte, cap. 1)
7Behaviourism1 (seconda parte, cap. 2)
8Constructivism and cognitivism1 (seconda parte, cap. 3)
9Social constructionism1 (seconda parte, cap. 4)
10Complexity epistemology1 (seconda parte, cap. 5)
11The mind2 (cap. 1)
12Cognitive processes2 (cap. 2)
13Space and time2 (cap. 3)
14The nature of causality2 (cap. 4)
15The two systems of reality2 (cap. 5)
16The passion of the self2 (cap. 6)
17The pleasure of society2 (cap. 7)
18The interest in justice2 (cap. 8)
19Gradual reason2 (cap. 9)
20Ideas3 (book I, part I)
21The ideas of space and time3 (book I, part II)
22Knowledge and probability3 (book I, part III)
23The sceptical and other systems of philosophy3 (book I, part IV)

Learning Assessment

Learning Assessment Procedures

Oral examination, assessed on the basis of the following elements: relevance of the answers to the questions asked (necessary to pass the examination); quality of the content, ability to link the various parts of the programme, property of philosophical language, overall expressive capacity (all elements contributing to the final assessment, always provided the answers are relevant).

Examples of frequently asked questions and / or exercises

What is the difference between theoretical and practical sciences?
What are the assumptions of social constructionism?
What is practical-prescriptive inference?
In what sense has cognitivism been considered a missed revolution?
What did Hume think of causality?
What is the sophism of justice that Hume refers to?
What is the role of probability in knowledge according to Hume?
Read this passage from the Treatise of Human Nature and explain its meaning, contextualising it within the work.